Frostbite Warning

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If you’re outside in freezing temperatures and it’s a windy condition (wind chill–critical to factor in) you are at risk for frostbite. It can easily sneak up on you.

Frostbite is, literally, frozen body tissue–usually the skin, but sometimes deeper tissue. It must be managed carefully to prevent permanent tissue damage.

Kids are at greater risk for frostbite than adults, both because they lose heat from their skin more rapidly and because they’re often reluctant to leave their winter fun to go inside and warm up.

The areas most prone to frostbite are the head, face, ears, hands and feet.

Frostbite requires immediate medical attention. Frostbite can be associated with hypothermia, which is a serious medical emergency.

What to Do:

Call your doctor immediately or take your child to a hospital emergency room.

If feet are affected, carry your child. Do not let the child walk on frostbitten feet.

Get your child into dry clothing in a warm environment.

If you cannot get to a hospital right away or must wait for an ambulance, give your child a warm drink and begin first aid.

Immerse frozen areas in warm water. If warm water is not available, wrap your child gently in warm blankets or use body heat on the affected area.

• Do not thaw the frostbitten area if it’s at risk for refreezing before you get to a doctor. Skin that is thawed then refrozen again can cause severe tissue damage.

Do not rub frostbitten skin or rub snow on it.

Preventing Frostbite:

Take a first-aid and CPR or local class on frostbite prevention to help learn what to do in emergency situations

Wear layered warm clothes and use hats, gloves, scarves, thick socks, and well-insulated boots to cover body parts that are most prone to frostbite. Inner clothing layers that absorb moisture and outermost layers that are windproof and waterproof are helpful.

Remember frigid temps, searing wind chill, plus skin exposure is the perfect storm for frostbite. And please don’t forget about your pets. They are at risk for frostbite too.

This article is a public service advisory brought to you by Dr. William J. Garrity, Internal and Pediatric Medicine as well as Osteopathic Medicine specialist.

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