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Health Spot: Frostbite

Winter is here and bringing with it hypothermia and frostbite. Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissue while hypothermia is a condition when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Both conditions are related to winter and colder temperatures.

My name is Dr. Jason Hogan, and I’m an Emergency Medicine physician at Gunnison Valley Health.

Symptoms of frostbite include skin that looks red, white, gray, or blue and the affected skin can feel hard or waxy to the touch. A person might feel clumsy or have trouble moving the affected area due to joint and muscle stiffness. Frostbite is most common on fingers, toes, ears, cheeks and chin, but it can happen on any skin. To treat the frostbitten area, protect the area from further damage. Try not to walk on feet that have frostbite, unless you have to walk to get to a warm place.

If you can keep the skin from refreezing, gently thaw it in warm but not hot water and do not use direct heat such as a stove or fire which can potentially burn the numb skin. If you think the skin will refreeze, do not thaw it as refreezing can cause increased damage to the skin.

Please visit the emergency department or call 911 if you are concerned that you or a loved one is experiencing a cold weather emergency.