First Aid For Frostbite

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Frostbite is the freezing of body tissue. It’s caused by exposure to uttermost cold temperatures. Mild cases of frostbite impacts just the skin, however, the damage could go deeper. Frostbite strikes the extremities of the body including:  fingers, toes, nose, ears and cheeks.

Why do you get frostbite?

The body has the ability to cool itself down or warm itself up depending upon the environment the person is in and the activity he is engaged in. All the same, during extreme cold temperature, blood heat goes down much faster than it could heat up. If the body temperature gets to a danger zone, the body begins to protect the vital organs in order for it to still function well by stepping up blood circulation to the heart and brain while cutting down blood flow to the extremities of the body. As a result, nose, ears, cheeks, fingers and toes begin to chill and freeze.

Signs of frostbite

The earliest indication that the body temperature starts out to fall below normal (hypothermia) is shivering. This is really good since the body tries out to regulate its temperature. Still, lengthened exposure to extreme cold temperature can give the following symptoms: cold skin that feels hard and solid, numbness and loss of pain feeling, confusion,  blistering, loss of function, color change from white, to red to purple, and slurred speech. When you detect these signs on a person, be sure to do the following first aid processes:

• Take the person from the cold.

• Wet clothes take up heat from the body. Change to dry clothes immediately.

• Submerge the patient’s body into warm (not hot) water for at least twenty minutes. Keep in mind that the patient’s pain sensory receptors are numb so don’t let him control the temperature.

• If water isn’t available, envelop the patient’s body using warm blanket.

• Don’t use direct heat like heating pads from flat iron or fire from the stove.

• Be mindful not to contact the affected parts of the body.

• Don’t use snow to rub the frostbitten areas of the skin.

• If there’s a hazard of refreezing, don’t thaw the frostbitten skin yet.

• When they have been thawed, avoid refreezing by wrapping the affected skin using warm blanket. (Refreezing causes permanent impairment to the skin tissue.)

• When the affected areas thaw, the flesh can get red and painful.

• The skin is thawed if it becomes pink and no longer numb. 

• Call 911 for emergency help.

If you’re in a remote area or in a place where help is unavailable, be sure to keep the patient warm as when you see signs of frostbite. Call for emergency help straightaway. While awaiting the ambulance or a chopper, evaluate if thawing is possible. When help arrives, give the patient’s info to the medical personnel. Call the relatives and let them know about the incident.

Prevention

• Prevent exposing your skin to extreme cold temperature.

• Put on appropriate clothing when going on a winter trip.

• Do not disregard your body when it starts to shiver. Put on more layers of clothes as needed.

• Wind chill makes the body temperature to drop rapidly. Protect yourself using wind breaker.

• Don’t wait till hypothermia turns to frostbite.

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