If you live and/or drive north of the Mason-Dixon Line this time of year, you’ve probably noticed that it’s no longer exactly cutoffs and flip-flops weather anymore. That means you need to be aware of new issues that can cause you harm … unless you are careful.
One of the ways winter can be hazardous to your health is frostbite, which is when a part of your skin — nose, ears, fingers, toes, cheeks — freezes. No, you won’t have icicles hanging off your nose like in the cartoons. Instead, the centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests you be aware of any redness or pain know what to look for.
What are the signs of frostbite? These are the obvious ones:
- a white or grayish-yellow area on your skin
- skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
Keep in mind that you may not even know you have been frostbitten because your skin may be numb.
What do you do if you think you my be suffering from frostbite? The CDC suggests:
- Get into someplace warm 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 ho –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 the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
- Don’t use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, radiator or your truck’s heater for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.
Of course, these procedures are not substitutes for proper medical care. See a medical professional as soon as you can.
The best way to avoid having to see a doctor for the treatment of frostbite? Avoid it in the first place. Dress properly (gloves, properly fitting boots, weather-appropriate socks, a hat, several layers of clothing), be watchful of how much time you spend out time in the cold and prepare you truck, your home and your car in advance.
Here’s an additional head’s up: if you already have poor circulation you are at greater risk for frostbite.