What to do in case of frostbite
What you should NOT do in a case of frostbite
If we find someone who has suffered frostbite, we should avoid doing the following things:
– Rub the frostbitten parts: the frostbitten areas are very delicate. If these parts are rubbed, you could aggravate the injury caused by cold.
– Wet frostbitten parts with snow : There is an old belief that rubbing the frostbitten parts with snow is very adequate. This belief is false. Rubbing an area with snow makes the wounds worsen. Moreover, snow provides moisture to the affected zone, so that frostbite can be increased.
– Apply direct heat to the body: If we use a direct heat source such as a stove, a hair dryer or a radiator, to the frostbitten zones all we can achieve is burning the skin that is more helpless after suffering frostbite. We should warm the environment, not the wounds or burns.
– Provide alcohol to a frostbitten person: There is a belief that alcohol provides heat and blood returns to frostbitten parts. This belief is false. Alcohol constricts blood vessels and decreases blood circulation and, therefore, it impedes frostbite recovery.
– Do not rewarm or thaw frostbites using hot water: Frostbitten members, besides being more fragile, have poor sensitivity to hot or cold. If we use hot water we can cause severe burns.
– Do not thaw the members if there is a possibility of becoming frostbitten again : If you thaw a body part in a very cold environment, thawed body tissues can get worse because the ice crystals formed in the second time are bigger than the former.
How to act in case of frostbite?
What you should do in case of frostbite:
If we find someone who has suffered frostbite we should do the following:
– Take the victim to a warmer place: It is evident that the first thing we should do is to transport the affected person to a hotter place. This transport must be done carefully to avoid worsening the damage. If the patient has suffered feet frostbite, it is important for him/her not to walk. So, we can shoulder the patient to introduce him/ her into a vehicle.
It the patient is to heavy to be moved or we do not have a vehicle, it is best to make him walk to a safer place though this may cause feet blisters. We must not remove the shoes or boots until the patient is in a safe place and we are certain we can rewarm or thaw the affected tissue.
– Remove wet clothing and footwear: Once we are in a safe place, we must remove clothing carefully and cover the patient body with blankets, towels or dry clothes. We should never rub the body with clothing. If we have clean and disinfected dressings, we will cover the frozen areas with these dressings placed between the fingers or toes or covering the wounds so that they do not not infect.
– Bring the victim to a hospital: If we have a nearby hospital, we will take the victim to the center or call an emergency ambulance as soon as possible.
– Rewarming frostbitten parts: In case of absence of medical help, try to rewarm or thaw the affected parts. To recover the frostbitten parts you should use warm water and never use hot water. The ideal temperature is between 37 and 38 degrees ºC in children and between 40 and 42 º C in adults.
If possible, we will use a thermometer to check water temperature because hot water can cause serious damages. We will never permit the affected person to check the water temperature since it is very difficult for him/ her to distinguish if the water is too hot. The affected hands or feet should be put in a bowl with warm water and we will soak a cloth with this water to wet the affected areas without squeezing them.
The rewarming or thawing process are slow and painful. Thawing the fingers or toes can take between 15 minutes and half an hour. Until the skin returns to it normal state, it may swell, it may become purple and it may hurt a lot. Throughout this period we should supervise that water temperature remains constant and that the affected parts receive it constantly. To make this possible, we will heat water in another bowl and, when ready, we shall pour it slowly in the treatment container.
Rewarming or thawing the affected parts implies making peripheral blood to return inside the body again. This could be responsible for the appearance of Arrhythmias.
– Provide the victim warm drinks: Providing soup or hot non-alcoholic drinks will help maintain the body temperature and will avoid the risk of hypothermia.
– Provide adequate natural remedies: These can be of assistance to recover the affected areas more quickly and prevent wounds from becoming infected.
More information about frostbite and its natural treatment.