By: Chad Zawacki, PA-C
As Winter is approaching the temperatures will continue to plummet putting individuals at an increased risk of frostbite and frostnip. In this blog I will discuss the key differences between these two conditions, treatment as well as prevention.
Frostbite results when the outer layer of skin as well as underlying tissues/structures are basically “frozen” when exposed too long to cold temperatures and or wind. The most common locations involving frostbite are the fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. Signs/symptoms include cold skin appearing red and then changing to a pins/needle sensation and changing to numbness. Skin may also appear waxy looking as well. Frostbite results in permanent damage to the involved skin/tissue.
Frostnip on the other hand is simply just a more milder form of frostbite and occurs before frostbite. Symptoms are very similar to frostbite as mentioned already. Patients with frostnip usually recover faster and do not have permanent damage to affected skin/tissues compared to frostbite areas.
Treatment for frostbite and frostnip involves rewarming the affected area. The first step is removing the affected area from exposure to the cold. Thus, moving inside or covering the exposed and affected area with clothing to attempt to re warm the area is key. Any wet clothing should be removed, and the affected areas should be gently rewarmed with warm water until the skin starts to show redness and becomes warm. Avoid direct heat such as head from a fire or a heating blanket. Individuals should also seek care from a medical provider if they believe they have frostbite whether at the nearest ER or another medical provider. Severe cases and result in amputation of the affected limb.
Prevention includes dressing properly and covering the most common locations for frostbite and frostnip and stay moving around to keep blood flow moving are all vital preventable techniques. Limiting exposure to cold weather is also key. When one starts experiencing early signs and symptoms of frostbite or frostnip one should head to warmer temperatures to prevent damage to skin and tissues.
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