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Q: What is frostbite, and how is it treated?

Posted January 08, 2014 in Advice Column, Norwalk

A: Exposure to below freezing temperatures can cause frostbite, a rare but serious condition that requires emergency care. Frostbite can affect any area of the skin and in extreme cold can develop within minutes.

Some of the signs and symptoms of frostbite are aching pain or numbness, most often on hands, feet, face and ears. Also, the skin will begin to feel hard and waxy, with a white or grayish yellow color.

If you think you are frostbitten, call your physician right away. Begin these steps:
• Come indoors immediately.
• Remove any wet clothing.
• Do not rub frostbitten parts of the body.
• Do not use dry heat such as a fireplace, oven or heating pad.
• Do not break any blisters that may have formed.
• Warm the frostbitten area in warm, not hot, water for approximately 30 minutes.
• Place clean cotton balls between frostbitten fingers and toes after they have been warmed.
• Loosely wrap warmed areas with clean bandages.
• Use ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain.

Always stay updated on weather forecasts. Stay warm and dry in cold weather; loose fitting, layered warm clothes are best. And remember, when using an ice pack, never apply it directly to the skin. This can also cause frostbite. Always cover icepacks with a cloth before applying to the skin.

Information provided by “Your Growing Child,” A Kids Health Guide to Injuries and Illnesses, submitted by UnityPoint Clinic, 801 Colonial Circle, Norwalk, 285-3200.

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