Winter has now arrived. With it comes cold weather that can lead to frostbite, a serious health issue. Extremely cold temperatures that can actually freeze body tissue and cause frostbite. Kids are at greater risk for frostbite than adults. The body parts most frequently affected by frostbite include the cheeks, nose, ears, fingers, and toes. The first symptom of frostbite may be a “pins and needles” sensation that progresses to white, waxy skin that is hard and numb. Frostbite is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical care.
- Bring child indoors and remove all wet clothing.
- Call the doctor immediately or take your child to a hospital emergency room.
- If feet are affected, carry your child. Do not let them walk on feet that have frostbite.
- If you cannot get to a hospital right away or must wait for an ambulance, give your child a warm drink and begin first-aid
- Place frozen areas in warm water (around 100 degree Fahrenheit) or for ears, cheeks or nose apply warm clothes if warm water is not available, wrap the child gently in warm blankets.
- Do not use direct/dry heat such as an oven fire or heating pad.
- Do not thaw the area if it is at risk for refreezing. Refreezing can cause severe tissue damage. Do not rub frostbitten skin or rub snow on it.
- Apply a sterile dressing to the area, placing sterile gauze between fingers and toes if they are affected.
- Do not break any blisters that have formed.
- Wrap rewarmed areas to prevent refreezing.
On those cold winter mornings when your child will be waiting outside for the bus or walking to school remember these important frostbite prevention tips.
- Be aware of factors that can contribute to frostbite, such as extreme cold, wet clothes, and high winds. Wind chill is important when assessing risk for frostbite.
- Dress children in layers and avoid tight, constricting clothing and shoes.
- Wear clothing suitable for cold temperatures and protect all exposed skin.
- Wear mittens instead of gloves
- Layered clothing should be wind-proof and water-resistant.
- Have children wear two pair of socks placing cotton socks next to the skin to absorb moisture and heavier, wool socks on the outside.
- Wearing a hat, ski mask or scarf that covers the ears will help protect them and will decrease heat loss from the scalp.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.
Jessica Gonko, RN, BSN
Dubois School Nurse