Frostbite: How to Help Properly and Not Cause More Harm

Usually, a person feels cold and pain only at the beginning of hypothermia. Gradually getting used to it, we stop paying attention to the frost. This is where the most dangerous part begins — blood circulation slows down and pain impulses weaken.

The first to suffer are the nose, ears, fingers of hands and feet. Due to insufficient blood supply, tissues receive less oxygen, nutrients, and heat. The slowing down of biochemical processes begins and the temperature in the body’s cells drops.

At some point, cells begin to die and necrotize — this is an irreversible process. Necrosis begins, from the outer edges to the inner ones. Visually, this is not noticeable until the victim begins to warm up. With mild and moderate frostbite, skin cells die and later this area will be covered with blisters — the same as with burns. If the frostbite is more severe and deep tissues are damaged — they will have to be removed surgically, up to amputation.

What is strictly forbidden to do:

Rub frostbitten areas with snow. This absurd idea can lead to increased trauma. First, snow is cold — which is very logical. And that means it cools the tissues even more. Secondly, snow is crystalline and very sharp, frostbitten cells are fragile and vulnerable to physical damage. They can simply be «torn» by snow. Moreover, microbes can multiply in scratches, causing infection.

Treat or rub frostbitten areas with alcohol. Alcohol dries and chemically destroys damaged skin. This will cause extensive tissue damage, they will start to peel off.

Apply fatty substances — oil, sour cream, creams. This does not bring any benefit to frostbitten areas, but «preserves» them and disrupts the access of oxygen to the skin. A peculiar «film» is formed under which bacteria feel very comfortable. They can infect scratches and an infectious process will begin.

Heat the affected parts of the body sharply, for example, sit by the fire or use heaters. A sharp temperature drop will cause a rapid increase in blood circulation, swelling, and inflammation.

What is clear that you can’t do. But what is needed?

First of all, bring the person back to warmth as quickly as possible.

Then, remove all wet and cold clothes from him, give dry and warm ones, you can wrap him in a blanket.

Warm the victim from the inside. You can give hot broth, drink hot drinks. Anything will do — tea, cocoa, milk, just warm water.

Naturally, you should call an ambulance and describe the person’s condition in detail.

It is best to warm up with the warmth of your own body. To do this, you need to wash your hands and put your palms on the frostbitten areas. Hold until you feel that the temperature has leveled off. At the same time, don’t even think about rubbing frostbitten skin!

If there is a risk of serious frostbite — carefully wrap the damaged area with gauze or a bandage so that it «thaws» gradually.

How to avoid these problems and prevent frostbite, read in our article.