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Frostbite (cont.)

Frostbite Prevention

The first step in preventing frostbite is knowing whether you are at increased risk for the injury.

  • Most cases of frostbite are seen in alcoholics, people with psychiatric illness, victims of car accidents or car breakdowns in bad weather, and cases of recreational drug misuse.
  • All of these conditions share the problem of cold exposure and either the unwillingness or inability of a person to remove himself or herself from this threat.
  • Tobacco smokers and people with diseases of the blood vessels (such as those with diabetes) also are at increased risk because they have an already decreased amount of blood flow to their arms and legs.
  • Homelessness, fatigue, dehydration, improper clothing, and high altitude are additional risk factors.

Although people don't always know or acknowledge these dangers, many of the dangers can be reduced or prevented.

  • Dress for the weather.
  • Layers are best, and mittens are better than gloves (keeps your warm fingers together while warming each other).
  • Wear two pairs of socks with the inner layer made of synthetic fiber, such as polypropylene, to wick water away from the skin and the outer layer made of wool for increased insulation.
  • Shoes should be waterproof.
  • Cover your head, face, nose, and ears at all times.
  • Clothes should fit loosely to avoid a decrease in blood flow to the arms and legs.
  • Always travel with a friend in case help is needed.
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol.
  • The very old, very young, those who are not in good physical condition, and people with diabetes and anyone with vessel disease should take extra precautions.
  • Be especially wary of wet and windy conditions. The "feels like" temperature (windchill) is actually much lower than the stated air temperature.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/9/2014

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Frostbite »

Frostbite is a cold-related injury characterized by freezing of tissue.

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