Frostbite on Your Feet

Feb 15, 2018

Frostbite is a real danger in New England. Hands and feet account for 90% of all cold related injuries. Men are affected by it more than women by a ratio of 10:1.

Frostbite occurs when the tissues of the body are reduced to a temperature that stops blood flow. As fluids in the body cool they can slow to a halt.

When the core temperature of the body decreases significantly, the body reacts by shunting blood away from non-vital organs and limbs.  As the fingers and toes are the furthest from the center of the body, they are easily cooled.  Without blood reaching the tissues the affected parts begin to die. In extreme cases of frostbite in children, growth plates are affected resulting in abnormal growth of bones.

Frostbitten fingers and toes may be salvaged if re-warmed and cared for properly. It is important to get the person to warm place where they do not risk becoming cold again. Medical attention is absolutely necessary. There are medications and procedures that can improve outcomes if sought out in a timely manner. The degree of irreversible damage is more closely related to the length of time that tissue remains frozen rather than the absolute temperature change.

Things to be careful of when going into cold temperatures:

Tight shoes, tight ski boots, standing in the snow or ice, smoking.  Be sure to keep your fingers and toes warm with thick socks, keep your feet dry, wear protective shoes that are waterproof.  If you have neuropathy in the feet be extra careful and warm your feet regularly.

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