What are Frostbites? How to Prevent and Handle Them?

Frostbite is a rare skin condition that sometimes occurs underneath the skin in the form of a freezer. Most common symptoms of this mainly include stinging, throbbing, numbness, and even skin discoloration. A few home treatments for it primarily include removing restrictive clothing or jewelry and gradually warming skin. Moreover, in severe frostbites, the treatment may include dermatology and plastic surgery by a reliable skin specialist. Let’s see more details about frostbites.

What are Frostbites?

Typically winter season usually brings a flurry fun of outdoor fun like skiing, making snowballs, and shedding in snow. However, when the environmental temperatures plummet, staying outdoors without proper protection from the environmental elements, even just a few minutes, can put you at significant risk for developing frostbites. While frostbite itself is an easily treatable skin condition by a dermatologist, in severe cases, it may cause significant health concerns that ultimately require amputation.

Frostbite is a unique skin disorder that usually occurs in the peripheral body areas far away from the heart. In this condition, either the outermost skin or the tissues underlying the epidermal skin freezer. That is primarily because 64% of our entire skin consists of water. As in freezing temperatures, water readily turns into ice; ice crystals get formed inside the skin cells exposed to colder environments if not adequately covered for extended periods. Therefore, due to water crystallization, blood circulation issues may also greatly enhance the risk of frostbites.

What are the significant signs and symptoms of frostbite?

  1. Numbness
  2. Throbbing
  3. Aching
  4. Redness
  5. Burning sensation
  6. Stinging
  7. Pickling – pins, and needles feeling
  8. Pale, bluish, or yellow skin areas
  9. Thick and hardened skin
  10. Gangrene – blackened skin

If you notice all these symptoms, you need to go to a professional skin specialist as soon as possible.

Which individuals are most likely to have frostbite?

Young children and infants are especially at a greater risk of frostbites because they can’t communicate and tell their symptoms to their parents and lose their skin heat more than elderly individuals. However, people of all ages should be on high alert for frostbites. Furthermore, moisture, underlying health conditions, and rapid temperature changes can significantly influence the risk of frostbites development.

What things can increase the risk of frostbites?

Spending prolonged periods outdoors in extremely cold, windy, or wet environments can primarily lead to the formation of frostbites under the skin. In addition, given below are some main things you should be well aware of that decrease blood flow and increase the risk of frostbites in winters:

  1. Poor health conditions, such as peripheral arterial disease, Raynaud’s phenomenon, peripheral neuropathy, and diabetes, cause poor blood circulation in the body.
  2. Wearing tight-fitting clothes such as tight gloves, socks, boots, long johns, etc.
  3. Certain medications, notably including beta-blockers.

How can I prevent the occurrence of frostbites?

Staying indoors, especially in colder environmental conditions, is the key to preventing frostbites and other skin disorders. However, according to high-qualified skin specialists of the American Academy of Dermatology, you can significantly prevent and reduce the risk of frostbites with the following tips and tricks:

  1. Dress in light, comfortable and loose clothing items
  2. Cover up your body as much as possible, especially when heading outdoors.
  3. Protect your exposed body regions like hands, face, and feet with gloves, scarf, and socks, respectively.
  4. You may also wear hats and face masks to prevent your heads, eases, nose, cheeks, and chin.
  5. Avoid frequent contact with metals that conduct heat and coldness through them. Never touch them barehanded.
  6. Seal out your exposed skin with water-resistant or water-proof outerwear when in the rain, cold, or snow. Also, it is highly suggested to change out your clothing items that get damp and moist from precipitation.
  7. Stay hydrated the whole day long by drinking excessive water before heading outside. Dehydration is also a significant cause of improper and slowed down blood circulation in the body, ultimately increasing the risk of frostbites.

If all these essential tips and tricks do not work for you and you still catch frostbites, you immediately need to consult a professional skin specialist.

What to do if you get frostbites?

If you find out that you have all the symptoms of frostbites mentioned above, immediately go to a warmer environment indoors. Try to bring back the normal skin feeling by gradually warming up your body. Remove any constrictive clothing or restrictive jewelry if wearing any. And, remember never warm up directly in front of the heater or fire as you may burn the skin without realizing it due to frostbite’s numbness.

Moreover, most dermatologists suggest a common method to gently apply a warm washcloth to the frostbite’s affected region. Follow this method by wrapping yourself in a banket or immersing affected skin in slightly warm water.

When should you go to a skin specialist for frostbites?

If you notice your skin turning white, yellow, blue, grey, or black discoloration, or if you can’t feel anything after numbness from cold even after warming up the body, seed medical attention immediately. The doctor or dermatologist may assess the symptoms for frostbite, and sometimes you may also be checked for hypothermia.

A quick checkup is crucial because frostbites can not only affect the skin’s deeper layers but also they can badly affect blood vessels, muscles, and bones. If the blood vessels get damaged once, likely, they will never be recovered as before. Furthermore, due to improper blood flow to any affected area, the patient may be at significant risk of gangrene. This particular skin condition can only be treated by amputating the affected limb.