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Frostbite can occur when you are exposed to temperatures below the freezing point of exposed skin. The nose, cheeks, ears, fingers and toes are the most commonly affected extremities. So when you're out hiking, snowshoeing, etc., be cautious and aware of the conditions.M
Frost causes the blood flow to the skin to slow down so your body is able to send more blood to your vital organs to supply them with critical nutrients, while preventing further decrease in internal body temperatures by exposing less blood to the outer cold. At this point, your extremities (body parts that are farthest from your heart) become more colder, a condition called the Hunter's Response is initiated. This is when your blood vessels are dilated for a period of time and close again. Periods of dilation are cycled with times of closure to help preserve as much function in the extremities as possible. Although, when your brain detects that you are in danger of hypothermia, it will permanently close these blood vessels to prevent cold blood returning to the internal organs. Once this happens, frostbite has begun.
There are 2 types of frostbite, superficial and deep.
Symptoms for superficial frostbite is when you experience numbness, burning, itching, tingling or cold sensations in the area that is affected. The area will appear white and frozen, however, if you press on the area, you will find they still retain some resistance.
Symptoms for deep frostbite is when there is an initial decrease in sensation that is followed by complete lose. The area can have swelling and blood-filled blisters appear over white to yellowish skin that can look waxy and will turn a purplish blue as it rewarms. The affected area will be hard, having no resistance when pressed on and can even appear blackened and dead.
This person will experience a significant amount of pain as the areas are rewarmed and blood flow is reestablished. They can have a dull continuous ache that will transform into a throbbing sensation within 2 to 3 days. This could last for weeks or months until the final tissue separation is complete. Only in time you will be able to see the amount of final tissue damage.
Frostnip and chilblains are milder conditions of frostbite.
Frostnip is when you develop tingling sensations due to exposure of cold temperatures. This will disappear when the areas are rewarmed without any tissue damage.
Chilblains are small, itchy swellings on the skin. This is not painful at first, but can become painful - they are acral ulcers that affect the extremities. This is due to repeated exposure to damp, cold conditions above the freezing point. The itching, swelling and blistering red patches may occur on the toes, fingers, ears and nose.
When frostbite happens, the first thing you do is call for help. Next, elevate the affected area to help reduce swelling. Move to a warm area to help prevent any further heat loss. If the feet have been frostbitten, avoid walking on them, this can lead to further damage. Remove all wet clothing and any jewelry, these can cause further block blood flow. Drink warm nonalcoholic and noncaffeinated fluids. Apply dry sterile bandages or cotton between any fingers or toes that are affect to avoid rubbing. Never rewarm the affected areas if there is chances of it freezing again. Thawing and then refreezing can lead to very harmful and dangerous results. The best treatment is to rewarm the area quickly, avoid a gradual thaw in the field or when being transported in a vehicle. Finally, get to a hospital as quickly as possible.