As sub-freezing temperatures set in across Montana, the possibility of frostbite becomes a reality.
By Sherry Vogel
Frostbite is the formation of ice crystals in skin and blood vessels leading to tissue injury or tissue death, depending on temperature and length of exposure.
Exposed areas such as ears, cheeks, nose, fingers and toes are usually affected.
During exposure: Tingling, redness followed by paleness, numbness and hardness will occur.
Upon re-warming: Pain, tingling or burning (sometimes severe) with color changes from white to red, then purple.
Other symptoms: Blisters (sometimes severe), shivering, slurred speech, and memory loss.
Medical care is mandatory. The following tips apply to emergency care until medical care is available.
• Upon reaching shelter, remove clothing from the frostbitten parts.
• Never massage damaged tissue.
• Immerse the affected parts in warm water (about 100° F or 37.8 C). Use a thermometer, if available. Higher temperatures may cause further damage.
• Drink warm fluids with a high sugar content.
• Don’t smoke.
• After re-warming, cover affected areas with soft cloth bandages.
• Don’t use affected limbs until you have medical attention. If feet are involved, don’t walk.
The best tip is: Use prevention.
• Anticipate sudden temperature changes and wear warm clothing – several layers of sweaters or coats, gloves, socks, hats and a knit mask or scarf across your face.
• Don’t drink or smoke prior to anticipated exposure.
Enjoy the winter, but plan ahead.