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Frostbite

By on January 10, 2009

Frostbite results when the skin gets exposed to extremely cold temperature. The word itself means that the exposed part of the body is frozen. This might prove lethal. The face, toes, fingers, ears are the most commonly affected parts. This can happen while doing any outdoor activity. The more windy and cold is the weather more the chances of getting frostbite are. One can see the skin becomes red and pale in color and sometimes turns blue. When the temperature increases blisters get formed.

With the skin getting exposed to cold temperatures cellular dehydration, capillary damage, crystal formation of ice, irregularity in cell wall porosity, and alteration in pH value, DNA synthesis and de-naturation of proteins occurs. The skin gets swelled up and erythrocyte also platelet cumulativeness takes place. Apart from this bleb formation, death of tissue, tissue edema, cell damage, local ischemia and compartmental space pressure is increased.

One can observe that the physiology of frostbite consists of numerous phases. In the initial phase there is a temperature drop and the flow of the blood decreases severely. As the cooling process takes place the body tries to defend itself. This cycle rests for 5-10 minutes and gradually all the blood vessels expand and then contract.

In this condition the body tries to re-warm itself. This phenomenon is also known as hunting response. Such response is more visible in cold environments like were the Eskimo’s live. Medically it is termed as cold induced vaso-dilation. The first stage is pre-freeze stage, the second the freeze-thaw stage and in the third phase intracellular shift of the membranes takes place. Here is when the formation of crystal takes place.

Prevention of frostbite:-

Clothing should be appropriate. The clothing should act as insulation against cold. In case of perspiration it should get readily evaporated. It is suggested to wear clothing in layers that gives ventilation too. Layering gives better protection. Fabrics like wool, polyester and other water repelling materials are recommended. See that the head as well as the neck is important. Head gears like scarf, masks for the face, earmuffs, hats and hoods give protection.

The feet should be protected with woolen socks and snug fitted boots or shoes. Gloves are mandatory to keep the fingers and palms protected. Try to stay near warm place like fireplace or in kitchen. By taking adequate protection one can safeguard themselves from frostbite.