It’s no secret that North Dakota winters are cold – really cold! Even going outside for a short period of time puts any of us at risk for frostbite.
Frostbite isn’t just a worry for skiers or mountain climbers. Anyone exposed to freezing temperatures for just about any length of time can get frostbite if the conditions are right. It is also a very real danger for those who work outdoors. Although it can affect any area of the body, frostbite typically affects the extremities the most – hands, fingers, feet, toes, nose, chin, or ears.
Frostbite can happen in minutes or hours, depending on temperature and wind chill. Other factors that affect the severity of frostbite injuries include a person’s age, size, whether or not they have good circulation, any vascular disorders, or pre-existing conditions like diabetes.
Being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of frostbite is crucial in order to minimize damage to the skin and extremities.
Symptoms of frostbite
The most common signs of frostbite are cold skin and a “prickly” feeling in the affected area. As the frostbite worsens, the area becomes numb and stiff. The skin will change colors depending on the severity of the frostbite injury – red, white, bluish-white, yellow, gray, or even black. It may also become hard and waxy-looking.
Like burns, frostbite is categorized into stages:
- Frostnip. The first stage, frostnip may turn the skin pale or red, with a numb or prickly feeling. The skin may be slightly painful or numb as it warms up, but frostnip doesn’t cause permanent damage.
- Superficial frostbite. The second stage is more serious, with the skin turning pale or white. The skin may still feel soft, but ice crystals may already be forming in the tissues. Prolonged exposure can lead to fluid-filled blisters or lesions.
- Severe frostbite. The most serious stage of frostbite affects all layers of the skin, including the tissues underneath. Blisters may start bleeding, motor function may be impaired, and the area may turn black due to dead tissue. In worst case scenarios, patients may need affected areas amputated.
Preventing frostbite in North Dakota
When living and working in an area with such cold temperatures, we should all take care to protect ourselves from frostbite. Here are a few tips to keep in mind during this winter:
- Wear layers of loose and comfortable clothing to trap warm air.
- To keep toes warm on the job, wear moisture-wicking socks against your skin and wool socks on top of those in combination with insulated, waterproof boots.
- Keep your face, ears, and head covered with a scarf, mask, or hat.
- Insulated gloves and mittens keep hands warmest.
- Stay hydrated – dehydration actually increases the risk of frostbite.
The team at Larson Law Firm, P.C. wants to ensure you remain safe this winter, both at home and on the job. We’re here to serve the people of North Dakota with their legal needs. Call us today at 701-484-HURT or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation at our office in Minot.