The ears, hands, feet, and nose are the body parts most susceptible to frostbite, which occurs when exposure to the cold causes the skin to freeze. The affected areas will appear pale, hard, and very cold, and in extreme circumstances, purple in color.
- Step 1: Wrap the rewarmed dressings in order to prevent refreezing.
- TIP: Prevent frostbite by dressing warmly and avoiding alcohol, smoking, and restrictive clothing or jewelry, all of which slow down circulation and make you more vulnerable to frostbite.
- Step 2: Stay with the victim until medical help arrives.
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- Step 3: Apply a dry, sterile dressing to frostbitten areas. If the fingers or toes were frostbitten, be sure to put dressing between them so they are not rubbing against one another. It is also important to keep the thawing areas as still as possible.
- Step 4: Change the water or compress frequently to maintain a consistent temperature. Do this until the skin has regained its softness and sensitivity.
- Step 5: Move the victim to a warm, dry place and remove any constricting clothes or jewelry that may be interfering with the circulation of blood.
- Step 6: Place the affected body parts in warm -- but not extremely hot -- water around 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. If the area cannot be placed in warm water, apply a warm compress of the same temperature.
- TIP: Don’t be surprised if the victim experiences burning pain, swelling, or color changes during the rewarming process. This is typical.
- Step 7: Call 911 immediately if a person has suffered more than mild frostbite. If they have mild frostbite, apply first aid care and then seek medical attention.