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Preventing Frostbite: Signs & Symptoms.

Preventing Frostbite: Signs & Symptoms.
Image of Dr. Sandhu
Written by: Dr. Sandhu
minutes to read đź“–

Winter is upon us in the Windy City, and it can be very easy to underestimate the dangers of cold weather. So, the staff at Ankle N Foot wants to ensure everyone has a safe and fun winter. Read on to learn about frostbite, its symptoms, and how to prevent it.

What is frostbite?

Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing of the skin and soft tissue. It has various stages with milder stages being reversible, however extreme and prolonged exposure can cause permanent damage and can lead to gangrene (permanent tissue death) and amputation.

What are the symptoms of frostbite?

Early symptoms include cold sensation, prickling feeling, numbness, swelling, and discoloration of the skin. This can worsen and sensation can be lost, and the skin can take on a waxy looking appearance.

Exposed skin is at highest risk, especially in windy weather (and as we all know, Chicago is known for its wind); it is of the utmost importance to wear items such as gloves, and warm hats with your ears covered to reduce risk

It’s easy to underestimate the dangers of cold weather; therefore, it is important to take wind chill into account.

What happens when you’re exposed to the cold?

Exposure to cold reduces blood flow to the skin’s surface, and your extremities. This happens to keep your head and internal organs warm.

Toes, fingers, ears, and nose are typically the most susceptible–and are typically–also the most exposed to the elements. Therefore, gloves, warm hats and scarves are key items to utilize in the winter. In addition, we would recommend dressing in layers in case there are drastic changes in weather throughout the day.

If your skin becomes wet, the risk for frostbite increases drastically, so it is vital that those items of clothing are changed or dried off immediately.

The National Weather Service provides a handy windchill chart that helps demonstrate the time it takes to sustain frostbite, given the wind speed and temperature.

"A chart with a Y-axis label of Wind and X-axis label of Temperature"

What can you do if frostbite symptoms arise?

Please seek warm shelter as soon as frostbite symptoms appear. Warmth (excluding hot water, which can cause burns or other problems) may be used, as well as blankets and a heating pad. It’s also a good idea to avoid vigorous massage of the affected area, since it might worsen the situation and cause over stimulation. If blisters begin to form, or severe discoloration appears, seek immediate medical attention, as the affected area must be evaluated and addressed as soon as possible.

If you need any clarification, our staff is always available to help to answer any questions you may have.