How to prevent frostbite

With frigid temperatures, as soon as you step outside blood starts leaving your extremities to protect your organs. It does not take much longer for frostbite to set in.

“It's cold but I'm doing my best job to keep it up,” said Nermin Brodlic, a Liberty Tax mascot. “I just keep dancing around and make people do their taxes.”

But moving around is not enough to ward off frostbite.

“The younger you are the better able you are to tolerate the cold,” said Dr. Stephen Roda, DO, Wound Care Medical Director at Good Samaritan Health System. “The older, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, you need several layers, especially covering the extremities; socks, maybe more than one pair of socks, and definitely gloves or mittens.”

You should not get a false sense of security if you are bundled up. The cold can penetrate layers.

“If you're out in the cold too long – happens to hikers, mountain climbers – they can be bundled up, have all the proper gear, and if they're out too long they can still develop it,” said Roda.

How long is too long?

“When you go out in the cold, you get cold and then it burns and then it gets numb. If you get to the numb stage, you're clearly at risk for frostbite and that can occur as early as 10, 15 minutes,” Roda said.

Listen to your body because frostbite can be harsher than its name implies.

“First degree frostbite, you have reddening of the skin, that'll get better. Second degree, you'll develop blisters just like you would sunburn and they usually heal. Third degree you start to talk about deep skin, muscle, ligament. And if you've ever seen, people progress to amputation,” Roda said.

If you think you might have frostbite, you should go to a doctor immediately.


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