Skin frostbite is a terrible prospect to consider, but it can easily be avoided if you notice the signs early and treat it in time. Here, we’ll be talking about skin frostbite, what causes it and how to prevent it from happening.
Stages of Frostbite
Skin frostbite has 3 stages. The first one, frostnip, is mostly characterized by redness on the skin, followed by slight numbness on your digits. This form of skin frostbite does not cause permanent damage, and can easily be treated with first-aid.
With the second stage, superficial frostbite, your skin actually starts feeling warm, a sign that it’s trying to compensate for the severe cold. If you managed to warm your skin up in time, blisters will show up a day or two afterward in the affected area, similar to what you’d see when your skin gets burned.
The final and most severe stage of skin frostbite, deep frostbite, will have you experience numbness in your entire body, and if you don’t take care of it immediately, the affected area will turn black and die. It will need to be amputated at this point.
What Causes Skin Frostbite
Dealing with skin frostbite involves understanding how it happens. As with everything else, prevention is better than treatment, but you can’t prevent something if you don’t understand what causes it. Here’s a list of what can cause frostbite during cold weather
Insufficient Protection and Increased Exposure to Cold
One of the biggest mistakes people make when they go outside in the cold is skimping out on protection. In order to properly let the body’s warmth work effectively, you will need clothing that can sufficiently cover your body. Skin frostbite commonly occurs on the extremities, namely the nose, ears, toes, fingers, your chin, and your cheeks.
As you may have noticed, parts of your face are particularly vulnerable, as this is the part of the body that is particularly difficult to cover up. And even if these parts are sufficiently protected, if you spend way too much time outdoors in the cold, you can still develop skin frostbite under your clothing.
Touching Cold Water For Too Long or Alternating Between Warm and Cold Too Quickly
What makes the cold so dangerous is that it worsens depending on what medium it is in. If you’re experiencing 0-degree weather, for example, and there are strong gusts of wind, it will feel much colder than it really is. Water is one such medium that can worsen the effects of cold. Because water is so malleable and can easily cover your skin in every nook and cranny, it’s an effective vehicle for cold and of course, skin frostbite.
To make matters worse, switching between warm water and cold water without letting your skin adjust sufficiently also puts a strain on your skin. This expands and constricts your skin rapidly, causing it to crack and eventually cause wounds.
Kidney Deficiencies and Lack of Exercise
Your skin’s best friend during cold weather is exercise. Exercise increases the blood flow to your skin, allowing it to insulate itself much more effectively. That’s why people who tend to be sedentary during winter or cold months are more likely to experience skin frostbite than people who are more active.
Your kidneys also help with the distribution of nutrients through your blood that can help your skin better insulate your body. A kidney that is not working at peak efficiency runs you the risk of developing skin frostbite much easily.
How to Prevent Skin Frostbite
Use Cold Water Before it Gets Too Cold
While it may seem counter-intuitive, using cold water to wash your face can actually condition your skin to be more resilient to the cold, and of course, to skin frostbite. Use water that is sufficiently cool, but not too cold, and make sure to dry yourself completely. Any excess water that isn’t dried off properly is liable to turn colder if exposed to the weather.
Apply Moisturizing Cream
Skin that has dried out is particularly vulnerable to skin frostbite since it’s devoid of oils and nutrients that keep it healthy. A good way to keep your skin from getting frostbite is by applying a healthy amount of moisturizing cream on it, especially after washing. Keeping your skin at its best improves your chances of it fighting off frostbite, and can prolong your skin’s longevity in the cold.
Apply Skin Care Products On Exposed Skin
If you absolutely have to go outside in cold weather, and couldn’t cover up the entirety of your body, then at least apply skincare to the exposed skin. This adds an extra layer of protection for your skin. Apply skincare in the most vulnerable places, primarily your face, the back of your neck, and your arms and legs. Even if you’re wearing thick gloves or waterproof boots, you should also apply skincare products on them regardless, as they’re still vulnerable to skin frostbite.
Pay Attention to Your Hand and Foot Hygiene
Keeping your hands and feet clean is a good way to maintain skin that can protect against skin frostbite. It’s a good time to moisturize as well as clean them. Washing your hands and feet regularly is also a good opportunity to check if you have the symptoms of skin frostbite, allowing you time to treat them.
Dry Your Skin Thoroughly and Prevent Dampness
Moisture is your number one enemy when it comes to dealing with skin frostbite. As we’ve mentioned before, water is an excellent medium for the cold to travel through, and if you’re not careful, any damp patches of your skin run the risk of developing skin frostbite. So after washing yourself off, make sure that you are completely dry. Pat yourself with a soft towel more than a few times, if possible.
Also, if you notice yourself sweating under your clothes during winter, get yourself indoors immediately, and dry yourself out. While sweat is a good indicator that your body is kept warm, if left for too long, it can become a good conductor for the cold.
Soak Your Feet In Warm Water
One of the most vulnerable parts of your body is your feet. If there is severe or deep snow, it’s your feet that are constantly making contact with the cold. Even if you’re wearing thick, protective footwear, they’re still vulnerable. To counteract the effects of skin frostbite, regularly soak your feet in warm water. This not only keeps your feet warm, but it also encourages good blood flow to your feet and legs, counteracting the effects of the early stages of frostbite. Plus, it’s a good way to relax during cold weather.
Choose The Right Footwear
Wearing shoes and socks during winter is usually not enough. You’ll have to consider what sort of cold your feet will be subjected to. Your old sneakers or cotton socks are not enough to keep you from getting frostbite. In order to properly protect your feet, invest in thick wool socks or socks that provide a good amount of insulation.
As for your shoes, wear ones that have good insulation and are waterproof. We can’t stress it enough that you shouldn’t allow water to get into your shoes, especially if you’re planning on working in the snow. Choose footwear with sufficient height, or ones that can seal off properly and prevent snow from getting inside.
Change Your Shoes and Your Socks Often
Even if you’re able to block out all the moisture from outside, you’re still not in the safe zone. Your feet can still be a source of moisture, namely your sweat. If you’re the type to sweat heavily, especially on your feet, it’s a good idea to change your shoes or socks frequently. Compared to regular water, sweat is an even better conductor of cold, thanks to the amount of salt it has.
A good way to stave off skin frostbite is by increasing the blood flow throughout your body. The best way to do this is by simply exercising regularly. Aerobic exercises are particularly effective for this since it’s a type of exercise that specifically targets the cardiovascular system, the part of the body responsible for blood flow.
Do Partial Massages Everyday
Another excellent way to increase blood flow to any body part is to do a partial massage. This can be done on your own or with a partner, and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes every day. It will also be a good opportunity to spot any blemishes or symptoms of skin frostbite on your body.