The earliest stage of frostbite, often referred to as frostnip, can be treated with very simple measures at home. The later stages often need medical attention and can severely damage the skin if not treated properly. AFC Urgent Care Bedford can provide you with the information you may need this winter to catch frostbite before it is too late. Learn more about the general illnesses we treat and prevent here.
Signs of frostbite
The signs of frostbite depend on the stage you are in. It is easy for frostbite to develop without you knowing, as the skin becomes numb the worse it gets. Before it is even considered frostnip, the very early signs of frostbite can include sore, red skin. Once it develops further, the affected skin may turn white or yellow and feel like pins and needles. This is the easiest stage to treat and does not require medical attention.
The second stage is called superficial frostbite. This causes worse damage to the skin than frostnip but can often be treated without severe damage. It’s essential to see a doctor at this stage for proper treatment. Signs of superficial frostbite can include the skin appearing waxy or shiny, and it can feel hard. Once you receive treatment, blisters may appear that are filled with fluid or blood.
Lastly, the third stage of frostbite is the worst one and often results in serious damage. This stage is called deep frostbite. Signs you have deep frostbite include hard, cold skin that is dark blue or black. This form affects your skin and the tissue that is underneath it. Blood-filled blisters will appear, and the recovery process is often very painful.
Again, treatment options can depend on the stage you are in. Superficial and deep frostbite requires immediate medical attention. The process of thawing your skin can be very painful, and doctors will often give you medication for the pain. Frostnip is the only stage that can be treated at home, safely. The first step is to go inside where it is warm and place a warm washcloth on the affected area. As it is warming, you may continue to feel “pins and needles.”
The emergency room can help treat later stages of frostbite. Their goal is to restore blood flow to the affected areas. MRI’s are often conducted, as well as placing warm sponges to defrost the skin. In very severe cases where the tissue has already died, they will try scraping off affected tissue or perform surgery to remove any affected areas.