Winter is almost upon us and freezing temperatures are already here. Part of the Full Spectrum Preparedness Doctrine is recognizing the dangers we may face and being able to address them. One of the major dangers in cold weather is frostbite. Knowing first aid for frostbite is an important first aid skill to know once freezing temperatures arise.
Frostbite is a medical condition that results from the freezing of the body’s tissue. It usually affects the parts of the body that are farthest from the heart and large patches of exposed skin. Frostbite is characterized by the constriction of the skin, as blood is shunted to the body’s core in an attempt to maintain body temperature. The affected tissue freezes, and ice crystals form inside the body’s cells. As the tissue thaws, symptoms range from pain and itching (1st degree) to deep tissue damage (3rd and 4th degree), which can result in the necessity to amputate or excise dead tissue. Death can occur if left untreated, so it is important to seek medical assistance and know first aid for frostbite.
Get out of the cold. If you can not, do not start treating frostbite until you reach safety.
Before treating frostbite, remove any jewelry, as swelling will occur as the tissue thaws.
Submerge the affected area in body-temperature water. Change the water as it cools down. Try to keep the water at a constant temperature.
Use body heat for treating mild cases of frostbite, if water is not available.
Wrap damaged tissue in sterile bandages to protect the affected area from infection. Wrap affected digits (fingers and toes) in individual wrappings.
Remember in any case of frostbite, seek professional medical attention as soon as possible.