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Post subject: Frostbite and Frostnip  PostPosted: Dec 22, 2005 - 11:39 AM

Frostbite and Frostnip

Everyone is susceptible to frostbite. Early frostbite is characterized by waxy, white and hard skin that feels numb and has a persistent burning sensation. In more severe cases, frostbitten skin will become blue and mottled or splotchy. An earlier form of frostbite called frostnip can also be a problem. It usually affects the ears, nose, cheeks, fingers and toes. The affected area will be white and numb.

Preventing frostbite and frostnip

Frostbite can occur when temperatures are below freezing. Wind and humidity can shorten the time it takes for frostbite to occur. Follow these recommendations to prevent frostbite and frostnip:

-Wear warm clothing and dress in layers. See our winter dress page for layering suggestions.

-Frequently inspect fingers and noses for signs of frostnip and frostbite.

-If you are away from home, take extra clothing along.

-Keep dry. Wet clothes increase chance of heat loss.

-Nicotine should be avoided because it constricts small blood vessels in the hands and feet predisposing them to frostbite.

Treating frostbite and frostnip

Severe frostbite requires immediate medical attention. If you suspect frostbite:

-Remove cold and wet clothing.

-Do not rub or bump the affected area.

-Do not use direct heat such as a heating pad or hair dryer to warm the affected area.

-Soak frostbitten area in warm - NOT HOT - water. If you dont have a thermometer, dip your elbow in the water. If the water is too hot for your elbow, its too hot. Maintain temperature of water by adding warm water if necessary.

-Soak affected area until it becomes pink.

-If the face is frostbitten, use a soft washcloth. Soak the wash cloth in warm water and wring out any excess.

-After the affected skin turns pink, dry the skin gently but thoroughly and wrap with clean gauze bandages.

-If the toes or fingers are frostbitten, place gauze bandages or cotton balls between toes and fingers to permit these areas to dry. Thoroughly drying affected areas can prevent infection.

-The affected skin may have a burning sensation after warming.

-The affected skin may blister, swell, become painful or turn blue, red or purple. Do not pop blisters that appear. Popping blisters on frostbitten skin can cause infection.

-Drink something warm and keep hydrated.

-Seek medical attention as soon as possible for a thorough exam and additional treatment.

-Avoid further exposure to the cold especially the affected areas.

-Keep warm with clothes and blankets. Dress in clothing that is loose, warm and dry.

Dressing For Winter

You can keep yourself warm and protected from the harsh winter weather by dressing in layers. Layering means wearing one layer of clothing over another - this traps insulating air between the layers and prevents heat loss from the body by resisting:

Conduction - heat loss by direct contact.

Convection - heat loss due to the surrounding cold air.

Evaporation - heat loss due to sweating and breathing.

Layering Suggestions

-First layer: Underwear should be long and made of polyprolene, capilene, coolmax, ZeO2 or any other nonabsorbing material (Thermaz, Hydrofil and Drimax). Cotton is not good in winter.

-Second layer: This should be heavier than the first layer. This should provide insulation and must retain its heat-insulating properties even when wet. Use polyester fleece (brand names are Polartec and Synchilla).
Third layer: This is the protection layer - protects you from wind, rain and snow. Preferred materials are Goretex, Entrant, Versatech, Helly Tech and Ultrex.
The advantage of layering is that a layer of clothing can be easily removed as the body warms.


-Do not overdress - heavy clothing can increase perspiration and may actually increase body heat loss.

-Dirty clothes will not insulate warmth as well.

-Adding a hat or scarf will often increase the warmth. Remember, almost 60% of the body's heat loss can occur from the head.

-Avoid cotton clothing, especially if the temperature falls below 50 F. Cotton absorbs moisture and promotes heat loss through conduction.

-Cover the extremities - the best choices for hats and gloves are fleece, polypropylene and wool.

-Do not overcover your feet - heavy foot cover can make your shoes tight and restrict circulation and too much heat can increase perspiration. Preferred choices are wool or polypropylene socks of moderate thickness. Wear shoes with thick soles if you are physically active. Wear clothing that allows ventilation - this will allow the sweat to evaporate.

-Mittens are warmer than gloves - less area is exposed.

Medical Information
It is not the intention of Raptor-Pack to provide specific medical advice but rather to provide users with information to better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. Specific medical advice will not be provided, and Raptor-Pack urges you to consult with a qualified physician for diagnosis and for answers to your personal questions and specific medical advice




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