Frostbite and Cold Weather-Related Injuries

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Frostbite and Cold Weather-Related Injuries Facts

  • Cold weather-related injuries occur with and without freezing of body tissues.
  • Cold weather-related injuries include chilblains, trench foot, frostnip, and frostbite.
  • Signs and symptoms may include tingling, numbness, and changes in the color and texture of the skin.
  • Treatment generally includes moving out of the cold environment, removing wet clothing, and re-warming the affected area.
  • Frostbite is a serious cold weather-related injury that requires immediate medical attention and rapid re-warming. Do not thaw the affected area if there is the risk of refreezing.
  • Certain individuals, such as the elderly, children, alcoholics, and the homeless, are at increased risk of developing cold weather-related injuries.
  • Prevention of cold weather-related injuries is best accomplished through proper planning and preparation for cold weather.

Introduction to frostbite and cold weather-related injuries

Winter cold and snow provide a number of opportunities to get outside and participate in activities such as skiing, sledding, and snowmobiling. However, without proper protection, cold weather-related injuries can occur even when temperatures are above freezing (32 F, 0 C). This is especially true if there are high winds or if clothing is wet. In general, however, it is both the temperature and the duration of exposure that play a role in determining the extent and severity of cold weather-related injuries. This information describes the different types of cold weather-related injuries, as well as what to do to prevent and treat them prior to reaching a health care practitioner.

What type of injuries can be caused by cold weather?

Cold weather-related injuries can be divided into two general categories. There are those injuries that occur without the freezing of body tissue, such as chilblains, trench foot, and frostnip, and those injuries that occur with the freezing of body tissue, such as frostbite. Hypothermia is a medical condition characterized by a core body temperature that is abnormally low.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/4/2014

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Winter is the prime time for cold weather-related injuries like frostbite, chilblains, and trench foot

Frostbite Symptoms and Signs

Frostbite typically occurs in military personel or others who work outdoors, or in outdoor winter sports enthusiasts. People who become stranded outdoors can also become victims of frostbite.

The areas of the body affected by frostbite feel cold and firm. Burning, tingling, stinging, or numbing sensations may be present. Clumsiness can result from impaired motor control. When the affected body part is rewarmed, a throbbing or burning pain may result. ...

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