This being Wisconsin, we still have more cold weather ahead of us, so it’s important for parents to understand the risk of frostbite during Winter weather.
Frostbite occurs when the skin and underlying tissues freeze. Even a short period of the skin being exposed to subfreezing temperatures can have long-term consequences such as extensive skin, tissue and nerve damage.
Use these tips to avoid frostbite:
- Dress in layers.
- Wear mittens instead of gloves. Mittens keep your fingers together, which helps them warm each other.
- Cover your face, head, nose and ears at all times.
- Wear two pairs of socks with the outer pair being wool for increased insulation.
What to do if your child gets frostbite
If frostbite does occur, proper care must be taken to prevent further damage to the skin and tissues. Here are some do’s and don’ts:
- DO get out of the cold and once indoors, remove all wet clothing.
- DO gradually warm the frostbitten areas. Put the affected hands and feet in warm — not hot — water.
- DON’T use direct heat such as a stove, lamp, fireplace or heating pad to rewarm frostbitten areas. These can cause burns before you feel them on numb skin.
- DON’T rub the affected area, and never rub snow on frostbitten skin. The friction created by this can cause further damage.
- DON’T walk on frostbitten feet or toes as this can further damage the tissues.
- DO keep the affected area elevated to help decrease the swelling.
- DO seek medical help if the numbness or pain persists, or if blisters develop.
- DO apply a dry dressing between any involved fingers or toes to prevent them from rubbing together.
Spring will be here before we know it. Until then, stay warm and stay safe!
- Barb Riordan, BSN, RN, Burn Program, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Barb is part of the Burn Clinical Practice Committee at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. It includes a team of nurses, a child life specialist, psychologist, physical and occupational therapists, social workers and dietitians, who help oversee care provided to children suffering from burn injuries.