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Protecting Yourself From Frostbite

by Terry Wilson

To many folks, frostbite is a condition that only happens to people trapped in a blizzard in some exotic location. In fact, frostbite can be an issue for anyone who exposes their skin to frigid temperatures for a period of time. If you live in an area that experiences these harsh winter conditions, you need to take measures to protect yourself from this condition.


You can experience frostbite anytime the temperature dips below freezing, particularly if the wind is a factor. When your body is thoroughly chilled, it restricts the blood vessels in your extremities, diverting blood to your core to keep your organs warm. After all, your heart and lungs are more important to your survival than your fingers are, so your body naturally protects them. If your extremities are without an adequate blood supply for an extended period, the cells begin to die. In extreme circumstances, your skin may turn black, and you can sometimes have to have parts of it removed. People who have suffered severe frostbite have lost fingers, toes, hands, and feet to the condition. Even your nose is vulnerable. For people who already have poor circulation, such as those with diabetes, severe cold poses an even greater risk of damage.


In most instances, preventing frostbite is simple. You need to be adequately clothed for frigid temperatures. Multiple layers of loose clothing work well, and you should always wear dry, comfortable socks and gloves. Also, keep your ears covered. If you will be outside for an extended period of time, carry spare pairs of these items so you can change them if they become wet. If the temperature is well below zero, remember that you cannot even safely run to the mailbox without wearing warm clothing. In those conditions, just a minute or two of skin exposure can cause at least superficial frostbite. Also, do not mix alcohol with frigid temperatures. Alcohol may give you the illusion of warmth, but in reality, it adversely affects your circulation, making it easier to get frostbite. Remember, you do not have to be trapped by a blizzard to suffer from this serious condition.

If you live or visit areas where the temperatures drop below freezing, you need to take precautions against frostbite. In lesser cases, you may just suffer discomfort, but if your exposure is severe, you can lose a limb. Keep every bit of your skin covered when you leave the house, and seek medical attention if you suspect you've suffered frostbite.  

If you do suffer frostbite, contact an urgent care facility or doctor in your area.