Frostbite - or Congelatio in medical terminology - is the medical condition where damage is caused to skin and other tissues due to extreme cold. It is related to, but not identical to hypothermia. The early stages of frostbite are sometimes called "frostnip".
Risk factors include using beta-blockers, and having conditions such as diabetes and peripheral neuropathy.
Generally, frostbite is accompanied with discoloration of the skin, along with burning and/or tingling sensations, partial or complete numbness, and possibly intense pain. If the nerves and blood vessels have been severely damaged, gangrene may follow, and amputation may eventually be required.
First, move the victim to a warm, safe area. If medical attention is easily reachable, simply wrap the affected areas with dressings and/or cloths. Also, if it is unlikely that the affected areas can be kept thawed, treatment should not be carried out due to the fact that thawing followed by a second round of freezing can cause more extensive and severe damage to the frostbitten areas. Otherwise, one should place the affected areas in warm (not hot) water, until the areas are soft and sensation has returned. Afterwards, wrap the areas in clean, sterile dressings and attempt to reach medical help (if necessary). If hypothermia has occurred, treat the hypothermia first.
Last updated: 05-07-2005 13:54:27
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04