Dr. Belinda Dotter
This winter has been especially cold for long periods of time, quite different from our past winters that have been on the mild side. Frostbite becomes a risk every time we go out in sub-zero temperatures (and sometimes not even sub-zero temperatures). Frostbite is caused by either prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, or shorter exposures to very cold temperatures.
There are several symptoms of frostbite: numbness, a pins and needles sensation, severe pain, itching, and burning are all common when the body part is warmed and blood starts flowing again. The skin may look white, grayish yellow, or black with severe frostbite. Blistering is also commonly seen.
Here are some tips to avoid having frostbite on your toes and feet!
- The most important action for prevention of frostbite is: Plan Ahead! If you are planning outdoor activities, check the weather forecast frequently, and don’t ignore warnings about storms. Avoid activities, such as hiking and camping in freezing weather, if it’s beyond your experience level.
- Wear adequate clothing: Layering is key, with the inner layer being a fabric that wicks moisture from the skin. The outer layer should serve as a windbreaker. Mittens provide more protection than gloves. Wear two pairs of socks, with the outer layer being wool. Don’t forget hats and scarves!
- Increase physical activity when outside to stay warm.
- Don’t drink alcohol before or during cold weather exposure, since the alcohol may prevent you from realizing that your body is becoming too cold.
- Don’t smoke! Smoking constricts blood vessels and increases the risk for frostbite.
- Keep a cold weather emergency kit in the car: extra layers of clothing, blankets, and chemical hand warmers.