Hiking Tip 3 of the month of Dec 2013
Frostbite - How to recognize it, prevent and treat it - Frost bite is the freezing of the tissue of the body. It can be classified in 2 levels superficial and deep. It has very similar characteristics to that of burns.
Superfical Frostbite (minor) - This type of frostbite occures when the skin is exposed to temps below freezing 0 Deg Celcius. It can also happend above freezing if the wind-chill drops the exposed skin to below freezing.
Signs and Symptoms (minor)- The part may be cold, numb, ichy, waxy and white in color, there may be some pain initially. If you press on the skin there will be resistance indicating the part is not completely frozen.
Treatment (minor) - Remove the person (yourself) from the cold exposure, warm with direct body to body contact. If it is a face you can use your warm hand to re-warm the part. Prevent from re-freezing and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Prevention (minor) - Use the buddy system to watch for signs of frost bite from friends and collegues. Keep exposted skin covered and protected. Watch for signs of numbness and cold feeling in limbs. Do regular inspections of exposed skin and of the hands and feet.
Deep Frostbite (serious) - Full thickness frozen body part. Blisters and black skin may be apparent. There is usually no feeling as the pain receptors are frozen also.
Treatment (Serious) - DO NOT ATTEMPT IN-FIELD REWARMING OF DEEP FROSTBITE! - Deep frostbite is a medical emergency, in-field rewarming should not be attempted. initiate rescue by using a SPOT, EPIRB, Cell phone, or other means to begin evac to medical aid. A person will be able to walk out on frozen feet to meet rescue if required, but if you attempt in-field re-warming the pain could be severe. Medical aid with proper pain management with morphine or other paid meds may be required.
Prevention (Serious) - As with mild frostbite, watch for signs and symptoms and treat mild before it develops to deep frostbite.
Final Notes - Prevention is key to frostbite, use buddy system, watch for signs and symptoms of frost bite and seek medical attention if it occures.