DESCRIPTIONFrostbite is temporary or permanent tissue damage from exposure to subfreezing temperature. The arms and legs (especially the fingers and toes) and the face (especially the nose and ears) are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care until medical help is available.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Surgery to remove permanently damaged (gangrenous) tissue (sometimes).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSGradual numbness, hardness, and paleness in the affected area.
Pain and tingling or burning (sometimes severe) in the affected area, with color change from white to red, then purple.
Blisters (severe cases).
Formation of ice crystals in the child's skin and blood vessels, leading to tissue injury or tissue death, depending on temperature and length of exposure.
Diabetes mellitus; blood-vessel disease such as Raynaud's phenomenon (see Illnesses section); peripheral neuropathy (See Glossary); windy weather, which increases the chill factor; smoking; excess alcohol consumption.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Anticipate sudden temperature changes and encourage your child to carry a jacket, gloves, socks, hat, and scarf.
Urge your child not to drink or smoke prior to anticipated exposure.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
X-rays of the child's damaged areas.
Amputation of dead or infected tissue, especially fingers, toes, nose, or ears, following severe exposure.
Cardiac arrest, if frostbite is accompanied by total body hypothermia.
For mild cases, full recovery is possible with treatment for your child. Severe cases usually require amputation of the affected part.
HOME CAREThe following instructions apply to emergency care for your child until medical care is available:
Upon reaching shelter, remove clothing from the child's frostbitten parts.
Never massage damaged tissue.
Immerse the affected parts in warm water (about 100F or 37.8C). Use a thermometer, if available. Higher temperatures may cause further injury.
Your child should drink warm fluids with a high sugar content, if available.
Your child should not smoke.
After rewarming, cover the affected areas on your child with soft cloth bandages.
Don't let the child use affected limbs until there has been medical attention. If feet are involved, don't let the child walk.
MEDICATIONYour doctor may prescribe:
-- Analgesics, including narcotics, to relieve severe pain. Don't give the child strong pain killers longer than 4 to 7 days.
-- Antibiotics to fight infection.
Use non-prescription drugs, such as acetaminophen, for minor pain.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Your child can resume normal activities after treatment.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of frostbite or you observe them in someone else.
The following occurs during treatment: increased pain, swelling, redness, or drainage at the site of injury; fever, muscle aches, dizziness, or a general ill feeling.
New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.