Frostbite is damage caused by extreme cold to skin/ tissues. At very low temperatures, such as -15C or below, blood vessels constrict to preserve body temperature. If this continues for a long time, the tissue gets injured. This usually happens in tissues which are distant from the heart, which are most exposed to the cold such as the toes, fingers, nose and ears.
Very long periods of exposure to the cold can result in permanent tissue damage.
- Numb, cold skin
- Pink skin that becomes pale, then blackened or hard and frozen
- Warm the affected area gradually
- Move casualty out of cold to a sheltered area
- Remove any tight clothing or jewelry and wet clothes
- Gradually thaw the area; place frostbitten hands or feet in bowl of warm not hot water for 30 mins. Add more warm water as it cools.
- If there is no water available; use your skin, blankets or newspaper to warm skin
- Dry thawed skin and keep warm. If there is any chance of the affected areas freezing again, do NOT thaw them out. Treatment followed by freezing causes extensive damage.
- Do NOT rub/massage the affected area
- Use clean, dry cloth between frostbitten toes and fingers to prevent them from sticking to each other
- Do NOT let the casualty smoke or drink alcohol
- If the skin turns red and there is a tingling and burning sensation as it warms, circulation is returning. If numbness persists, get medical help.