Frostbite Self-Care at Home
- First, call for help.
- Keep the affected body part elevated in order to reduce swelling
- Move to a warm area to prevent further heat loss.
- Note that many people with frostbite may be experiencing hypothermia. Saving their lives is more important than preserving a finger or foot.
- Do not walk on frostbitten toes or feet if at all possible.
- Remove all wet clothing and constrictive jewelry because they may further block blood flow.
- Give the person warm, nonalcoholic, noncaffeinated fluids to drink.
- Apply a dry, sterile bandage, place cotton between any involved fingers or toes (to prevent rubbing), and take the person to a medical facility as soon as possible.
- Never rewarm an affected area if there is any chance it may freeze again. This thaw-refreeze cycle is very harmful and leads to disastrous results.
If medical care is not immediately available and there is no chance of refreezing, you can use body heat to warm an injured body part (for example placing frostbitten fingers beneath the armpit). Another option if medical care is not readily available, and there is no chance of refreezing, is to immerse the affected areas in warm (not hot) water.
- Do not rub the frozen area with snow (or anything else). The friction created by this technique will only cause further tissue damage.
- Above all, keep in mind that the final amount of tissue destruction is proportional to the time it remains frozen, not to the absolute temperature to which it was exposed. Therefore, rapid transport to a hospital is very important.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/30/2014
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