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The Effects Of Frostbite And Measures To Prevent It

Extremely cold weather is often dreaded by most people not only because it hinders the normal flow of activities in everyday life, but also because it affects our mind and body in a negative manner. Our body is not designed to handle extreme cold weather and so it reacts to such conditions in different ways. The most common and frightening reaction that our body shows towards the cold weather is the development of frost bites.

What Is Frostbite?

Frostbite is a medical condition that generally affects the body parts that are constantly exposed to extreme cold. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that frostbite occurs in the same weather setting as hypothermia. It leads to the gradual freezing of the skin and the underlying tissue in the affected area, and if not treated well in time, can cause permanent damage to the specific body area. The extent of the damage generally depends on the duration for which the condition has existed and the level of freezing of the tissues. In the worst cases, the affected area might be needed to be amputated, due to the death of the frozen tissue.

Which Parts Of The Body Are Most Likely To Be Affected By Frostbite?

Frostbite generally affects only the extreme body parts such as fingers, toes, hands and feet. However, in some extreme cases, other exposed body parts such as lips, nose and ears might also be affected. Contrary to the popular belief, any person can be affected by Frostbite, although the depth of the condition depends on how well the person is protected from cold. It has also been observed that younger children and elderly people tend to be affected by the condition more frequently and rapidly than others.

What Are The Symptoms Of Frostbite?

During the initial stages of frostbite, you might not feel anything other than the numbness in the affected area. This condition is generally known as mild frostbite or frostnip, and the victims might feel a burning or stinging sensation in the affected area.

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As the severity of the frostbite increases, the affected area of the body might develop redness and swelling besides which the skin might become white and waxy and feel hard to touch. This condition is often referred to as the superficial frostbite and it is the first indication of the condition having spread to the tissue beneath the skin.

As the frostbite sets in deep into the affected area, the skin turns bluish gray and feels extremely hard and numb. If proper treatment is not administered, at this stage the frostbite might cause the complete freezing of the muscle, tissue and fat beneath the skin leading to the amputation of the affected area.

What Are Some Of The Common Causes Of Frostbite?

As mentioned earlier, long time exposure to extremely cold climates that are below 32°F, is one of the most common causes of frostbite. However, people can also be affected by the condition when they are climbing at extremely high altitudes or when there is sudden drop in temperature along with increase in wind speeds.

Another common cause of frostbite is wearing wet clothes while working in cold temperatures. People suffering from health issues such as diabetes mellitus, poor circulation or even a prior history of frostbite are more prone to be affected by it. In addition, decreased oxygen supply to the body increases the severity of frostbite by significant margins.

Other causes that might lead a person to be affected by frostbite include extreme fatigue and dehydration as well as excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs. So if you thought that drinking can help you avoid frostbites, think again.

Is It Possible To Prevent Frostbite?

Preventing frostbite is entirely possible and the best way to do so is avoid exposure to cold temperature as much as possible. Other preventive measures that can be taken are as follows.

  • Do not venture out into cold weather unless it cannot be avoided at all. Even then, make sure that you wear enough layers of warm protective clothing before going out. Choose mittens over gloves and do not forget to wear warm accessories that can keep your head and ears well covered and protected from cold.
  • Go back inside even if you wet any of your clothing and change it immediately. If you are still feeling cold, especially in your extremities, wrap yourself in a warm blanket but avoid placing your hands and feet directly in front of a flame.
  • Do not take part in any activity that is likely to make you feel excessively tired, dehydrated or hungry. IF you can’t avoid it, make sure that you take frequent rests and drink enough warm liquid. Also try to restore your energy by eating some kind of energy giving snacks.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco before going out as it hinders proper blood circulation and also causes loss of heat from the body besides impairing your judgment.
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