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The Stages of Frostbite

November 19, 2015

Since we live in Alaska, we have all heard the warnings about Frostbite.  This happens because the body needs to maintain a temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit to function properly. When the body starts to get cold, the body moves warm blood away from the outer extremities and towards the vital organs to keep them functioning. This leaves the extremities very susceptible to the cold. With the body made up of mostly water, the body’s tissue can then freeze causing the issue of frostbite. There are technically three main stages and we are going to break them down!

Frostnip:
During frostnip, one of the first stages, the exposed area becomes cold, starts to tingle, and goes numb. Sometimes the color of the skin will turn red, and then white. Frostnip doesn’t usually cause lasting damage, as it only lightly freezes the top layers of the skin. This layer regenerates often, so this isn’t a big issue.

Superficial Frostbite:iStock_000011833766_Small
During superficial frostbite the skin continues to freeze and the deeper regenerating layers may start to
be irreversibly affected by the cold. Ice crystals begin to form in the tissue causing skin to feel hard. When the affected area is thawed, swelling and discolored blisters will often occur and can take up to a month to heal. This is the more noticeable side affects people see, and at this point permanent damage is likely.

Deep Frostbite:
Deep frostbite is the most dangerous stage of any. This occurs when deep tissue, such as muscles and blood vessels, begin to freeze. Nerves can be damaged and tissue may die resulting in a permanent loss of feeling and possible amputation to keep infection away. This is the stage when skin turns the well-known black color often associated with frostbite.

If you ever feel like you may have gotten too cold and are not having normal feelings or something doesn’t look right, do not hesitate to contact us right away. It is better to be safe then sorry!

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