How to Avoid, Care For Frostbite as Winter Temps Roll In

As temperatures drop below zero, make sure you're prepared to combat winter 2015 and the frostbite that could come with it.
Frostbite hands commons
Frostbitten hands |Photo by Winky from Oxford / WikiMedia Commons

Winter 2015 has brought severely cold temperatures with it.

Temperatures have dipped to 40 below zero in parts of the northern U.S., making frostbite a cause for concern.

But there are simple ways to protect against frostbite, as well as combat frostbite if it has already set in.

Frostbite most commonly affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

WebMD recommends the following methods of prevention to avoid frostbite altogether:

  • Wear adequate clothing. Tallman recommends wearing several layers of clothing, with the innermost layer being a fabric that wicks moisture from the skin. The outer layer should serve as a windbreaker.
  • Mittens provide more protection than gloves. Wearing two pairs of socks is advised, with wool recommended for the outer later. And don’t forget a hat and scarf that covers the ears.
  • Get moving. Increasing physical activity will help your body stay warm. Wiggle fingers and toes if they start to feel numb.
  • Don’t drink alcohol before or during cold weather exposure, since alcohol may prevent you from realizing that your body is becoming too cold.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking constricts blood vessels and increases the risk for frostbite.

However, in extreme cases, frostbite may be unavoidable. But don’t panic, there are ways to rectify the situation.

According to the CDC, anyone suffering from frostbite symptoms should take the following steps:

  • Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes-this increases the damage.
  • Immerse the affected area in warm-not hot-water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).
  • Warm the affected area using body heat; for example, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.
  • Do not rub or massage the frostbitten area; doing so may cause more damage.
  • Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.

For more information on frostbite and other types of cold stress, please visit CDC.gov.