With the recent chilling temperatures that have recently swept North America, I decided to create a helpful guide for noticing, treating, and preventing frostbite.
If your skin is exposed to cold temperatures (-26 °C/-18 °F), it can freeze in under 30 minutes, which can lead to skin damage. Fortunately, with proper care you care and a few simple products, you can protect your skin from severe cold. Your hands, feet, nose, and ears are the most vulnerable to the cold. When your average body temperature drops, your body tries to protect itself by concentrating the circulation of blood in your core. Less blood is sent to your extremities causing them to feel stiff, which can then injure the skin.
Cold temperatures damage the skin in similar ways to heat. There are three main stages of frostbite: 1st degree (frostnip), 2nd degree, and 3rd degree. Frostbite can be life-threatening if not treated in its early stages.
EARLY WARNING SIGNS
Frostnip is the first sign and degree of damage that can lead to frostbite. Signs of frostnip include changes in color including paleness or reddening of the skin, a tingly or numb feeling in cold exposed body parts, and mild pain in these areas.
S.O.L. Thermal Foil Blanket
SERIOUS SIGNS OF FROSTBITE
With 2nd degree frostbite you will experience an itching or burning feeling and thickening of the skin that takes on a shiny or waxy appearance. Seek medical attention with 3rd degree frostbite. In this stage blood blisters start to form where the skin can become darker blue and eventually black. This is the stage that can result in gangrene, possible amputation, and eventually death if not treated immediately.
When treating frostnip and 2nd degree frostbite, use your own body heat to warm your extremities. Some examples include placing hands under your armpits or cupping hands over your face to allow breath to warm your nose and lips.
Since 3rd degree frostbite is more severe, special care is needed in order to worsen damage to the skin tissue. Seek shelter to prevent re-exposure to the cold. Avoid radical temperature changes by slowly warming the affected areas in water that is around the normal body temperature of 98.6 °F for about ½ hour. Refresh water to consistently keep it warm.
After soaking, the area needs to stay warm and dry. With 3rd degree frostbite, it is crucial not to walk with foot frostbite or put pressure and rub frostbite because breaking blisters will lead to infection. Gently pat the area dry and loosely wrap it in a sterile dressing to protect the skin.
If warm water is not available, cautiously wrap the skin with clothing or a blanket for warmth and protection until proper treatment can be implemented.
When numbness fades, there will most likely be a lot of pain. Non-steroidal over the counter medications can be used such as Ibuprofen to help with pain and inflammation.
Adventure Medical First Aid Kit
The obvious way to prevent frostbite is to avoid cold temperatures. If you need to be in the cold, preparation is key in preventing frostbite.
- Before heading out in the cold, make sure to eat a nutritious meal to fuel the body.
- Having a fully charged mobile phone or 2-way radio will ensure communication if help is needed.
- Wearing loose layers of warm clothing will insulate your body by trapping air that will be heated by your own core temperature.
- Choose appropriate clothing such as wind or waterproof outer layers and sweat-wicking inner layers. Damp skin is more vulnerable to freezing.
- Always bring emergency supplies such as first aid or survival kits and pack extra clothing or blankets. You never know if you’ll break down or get stranded somewhere.
- Keep moving your body to increase warming blood flow.
Readywise 2-Day Survival Backpack
With each stage of frostbite, it is important to stay hydrated with water and to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. Water helps the body maintain its core temperature. Cold weather draws out moisture from the body creating fluid loss making you more susceptible to hypothermia. Alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine constrict blood vessels making it harder for the blood to circulate and warm the body. Alcohol also makes you prone to falling asleep which makes you more likely to be a death statistic.
For more survival tips and information on preparing for emergencies. Please visit www.everythingsurvivalsupply for more survival tips and information on emergency preparation.
Stay safe and God bless!