What to Know About Frostbite and When to Seek Treatment

When temperatures drop in the winter, there are certain injuries that become more common. While summer is more likely to bring insect bites and heat-related injuries, winter has its fair share of problems. One of them is frostbite. Although Virginia doesn’t get as cold as some other parts of the country the winter months can bring temperatures low enough to cause frostbite if you’re outside for a prolonged length of time without the proper gear.

Frostbite is an injury that comes on quickly and can be very dangerous if left untreated. With that in mind, learning to identify the signs of frostbite is a good idea. Moreover, knowing when to seek treatment if you or a loved one is affected by frostbite can be the difference between a simple recovery and permanent damage.

What is Frostbite?

Most people have probably heard of frostbite. The cold weather injury can occur when someone is exposed to cold temperatures for extended periods of time. Typically, exposed skin is the most vulnerable, although frostbite can also affect skin that’s covered by gloves or clothing. If temperatures are extremely low, such as below 0 degrees, frostbite can occur in as little as 30 minutes.

Frostbite most often affects areas of the body with less blood supply. For instance, the fingers, toes, nose, and ears are the most vulnerable.

When frostbite occurs, the skin and tissue beneath it freeze. The first sign is typically skin that becomes cold, painful, and reddened. Eventually, it may turn numb, pale, and feel firm to the touch. These are all signs that the frostbite is worsening. Unfortunately, many people don’t notice that they are in danger as the numbness makes it difficult to notice the symptoms.

If frostbite is left untreated for a long period of time the skin will turn black, blister, and the underlying tissue will die. In these cases, an amputation may be necessary to prevent further complications such as infection.

How to Prevent Frostbite

Considering the implications of a frostbite injury, avoiding it is a top priority. Of course, the simplest way to not get frostbite is to avoid going out in freezing temperatures. That part is obvious though.

When you do need to go out in the cold, there are some steps you can take to help prevent frostbite and other cold-weather-related injuries like hypothermia. The most important step is to dress appropriately. You should wear several layers of warm clothing along with a pair of gloves and a hat that covers the ears. Meanwhile, a warm pair of waterproof boots will keep your feet safe.

Speaking of, keeping yourself dry in the cold weather is very important. Clothes that are wet or damp will sap heat away from your body and can decrease the length of time needed for frostbite to set in.

While you’re out in the cold, it’s important to monitor for early signs of frostbite. If you notice that your skin is turning red, feels tingly, or becomes painful, you should head inside as soon as possible to warm up.

When to Seek Help for Frostbite

Anytime you think you may be experiencing symptoms of frostbite, you should first try to warm up. If the injury is mild, you may be able to treat it at home by slowly rewarming your skin. You can do this by going inside or running lukewarm water over the affected area. However, if frostbite is severe, complications may set in.

As such, cases of serious frostbite require medical care as soon as possible. A doctor will assess the injured area to determine the extent of the damage. Meanwhile, the healthcare team can work to properly rewarm the area and manage secondary problems like pain and blisters.

Velocity Urgent Care Is Here to Help

If you find yourself with symptoms of frostbite after being out in the cold, Velocity Urgent Care is here to help. Our team of friendly, board-certified providers will examine you to determine the severity of your frostbite injury.

Since you want to treat frostbite early, our 14 locations across Virginia make it easy to get quick, effective care. You can walk in at any time thanks to our convenient hours that are designed to fit your schedule.

Velocity Urgent Care is also the exclusive in-network provider for several local insurance plans, meaning you can be seen for the cost of your co-pay and deductible. All of our locations also accept Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare. We are also a Veterans Administration urgent care provider.

To find out more about our services, locations, hours, and more, visit www.velocityuc.com.