Frostbite is an injury caused by the coldness of the skin and underlying tissues. It occurs when the skin is exposed to extreme cold. The skin and tissues underneath the skin freeze. Firstly the skin very cold then red, pale and numb. The severe cases of frostbite can lead to the freezing of muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. Frostbite is very common on toes, fingers, ears, nose, cheeks, and chins. The skin may begin to freeze within one or two minutes when exposed to temperatures that range below freezing point. The skin may also start to freeze if it’s wet or exposed to severe cold and chilly winds. Frostnip is a type of frostbite, which is a milder form of cold injury that usually does not cause permanent damage. It can be treated at home with first-aid measures such as warming the affected area. Other forms of frostbite require medical attention as they can cause damage skin, tissues, and nerves.
Sign and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of frostbite include:
Symptoms of severe frostbite include:
Stages of frostbite
There are three categories of frostbite:
1. Frostnip- First-degree frostbite
Frostnip is a mild form of frostbite whose continued exposure to cold can leads to numbness in the affected area. However, frostnip does not cause any permanent damage to the skin and can be treated at home with simple first-aid measures.
2. Superficial frostbite- Second-degree frostbite
It appears as reddened skin begins to turn paler color. The skin may start to feel warm, and swelling may occur as a sign of serious skin involvement. The tissues below the skin are still intact, but prompt medical care is needed to prevent further complications. Rewarming the affected area at this stage can lead to stinging, burning, and swelling as the surface of the skin may appear molted. A blister filled with fluid may appear in the next 12 to 36 hours after treating with rewarming.
3. Deep frostbite- Third-degree frostbite
Third-degree frostbite is the most severe stage of frostbite. As it progresses, it affects all the layers of the skin. The skin turns white or grayish, and the person may experience numbness, losing the sensation of cold, pain, and discomfort in the infected area. Muscles nearby the infected area may not work properly. A large blister with fluid/blood begins to form 24 to 48 hours after the rewarming treatment. Later the area turns black and hard as the tissues die.
Causes of frostbite
Frostbite occurs when the skin is prolonged exposure to cold, so the most common cause is exposure to cold weather. But frostbite can also be caused by direct contact with ice, icy liquids. Few conditions can cause frostbite, such as:
Some risk factors can enhance the possibility of frostbite. They are:
If not treated timely, frostbite can lead to complications:
With simple and easy tips, frostbite can be prevented.