Frostbite: What are the signs and how to prevent it

Do you know the signs of frostbite?

We've already had some chilly weather here in Siouxland, and with the chilly weather comes the threat of frostbite.

With Old Man Winter knocking on our doorstep, it is important to prepare for what lies ahead: the bitter cold. Cold temperatures are potentially dangerous, especially when the cold can lead to frostbite.

"Basically frostbite is a lack of circulation to the extremities because of the freezing temperatures," says Dr. Joe Liewer, Medical Director of Mercy Medical Center Emergency Department. "Areas that are at risk are the extremities: the face, nose, and ears."

It isn't just temperatures that determine frostbite. Wind speed and air moisture play an important role as well.

Anyone who is exposed to the elements can get frostbite, but there are others who are more at risk: including those who work outdoors and the homeless.

But do you know what frostbite looks and feels like?

"You'll initially start having feelings like your hands are cold, and then you'll start to get pale appearing fingers, and you start to get numbness, and then that's a key that you need to get your hands warm," Dr. Liewer says.

Dr. Liewer says instead of warming up in an area with dry heat, you should be using warm water.

"It's best to re-warm your extremities in water, not dry heat, as that will put you at risk for burning your skin," Dr. Liewer says. "Generally people can't feel very well when they have a cold related injury like that."

And parents, always check on your children, as they may not recognize the signs of frostbite until it is too late.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off