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Hot tips for preventing frostbite


Winter brings the promise of fun in the snow as well as the chance to be cozy indoors. But the unwelcome side of the season is bitter cold weather — and along with it, the threat of frostbite.

Frostbite occurs when the skin and underlying tissues freeze. Even a short period of the skin being exposed to subfreezing temperatures can have long-term consequences, such as extensive skin, tissue and nerve damage.

How to prevent frostbite

In addition to limiting time outside during very cold weather, follow these tips:

  • Dress in layers

  • Cover the face, head, nose and ears at all times

  • Wear mittens instead of gloves. Mittens keep the fingers together, which helps them warm each other.

  • Wear two pair of socks, with the outer pair being wool. This provides a layer of insulation.

What to do if your child gets frostbite

If frostbite occurs, take proper care to prevent further damage to the skin and tissues.

Do

  • Get out of the cold. Once indoors, remove all wet clothing.

  • Gradually warm the frostbitten areas. Put the affected area in warm, not hot, water for about 30 minutes. The temperature of the water should be about 97-106 degrees Fahrenheit, or 36-41 degrees Celsius.

  • Keep the affected area elevated to help decrease swelling.

  • Apply a dry dressing, such as gauze or cotton balls, between any involved fingers or toes, to prevent them from rubbing together.

  • Seek medical help if you rewarm the areas and have persistent numbness, pain, skin discoloration or if blisters develop.

  • Avoid re-exposure to the cold, as frostbite can recur quickly.

  • Taking a pain medicine, such as ibuprofen, can help with the discomfort.

Don’t

  • Use direct heat, such as a stove, lamp, fireplace or heating pad to rewarm frostbitten areas. These methods can cause a burn injury that you won’t feel when the skin is numb.

  • Rub the affected area, and never rub snow on frostbitten skin. The friction created by this can cause further damage to the skin.

  • Walk on frostbitten feet, as this can cause further damage to the tissues.

  • Rewarm the area if you will be exposed to the cold again.

Spring is only a few weeks away. Until then, stay warm and stay safe! As always, if you have concerns about your child’s health and well-being, talk to your pediatrician.