Baby it’s getting cold outside. And it’s going to get even colder. Wintertime is a great time to get out and enjoy a variety of winter sports including downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding but as the temperatures drop, the risk of frostbite increases. Your fingers, hands, toes and ears are the most susceptible to frostbite because they are the most likely to be exposed to the elements. Frostbite can occur much faster than you think…sometimes in as little as five minutes.
What are the signs and symptoms of frostbite?
When the body is exposed to extreme cold, it causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing oxygen flow to your extremities. The first sign of frostbite is frostnip. Exposed skin becomes red and sore. Increased exposure to the cold will turn the skin pale yellow or white and you may experience increased itching, as well as stinging and burning.
During more intermediate stages of frostbite skin will become waxy, shiny and feel hard to the touch. If you experience intermediate frostbite, you may form blisters once the skin thaws. Advanced frostbite will cause skin to be cold and extremely hard to the touch and it will eventually turn black.
Frostbite is especially dangerous because as it worsens, you lose feeling and are unaware that it is progressing. That is why it is so important to look for changes in skin color.
The best way to avoid frostbite is to dress appropriately for the elements and get inside at the first signs of skin discoloration. Ensure that your clothing wicks moisture away from your body (like jaMo Adventure Head and Neck Gaiters). Wet clothing can actually accelerate the progression of frostbite.
If you do experience frostbite, soak affected areas in warm water or cover with a warm washcloth. Try to resist the urge to rub skin as it thaws. It can actually cause additional damage. The good news is that unless frostbite has progressed to advanced levels, it should recover quickly.