How is frostbite prevented?

Updated: Jul 29, 2019
  • Author: Bobak Zonnoor , MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Answer

Prevention is the key to decreasing the number and overall morbidity of frostbite injuries. Frostbite prevention involves having a working knowledge of the environmental risks and hazards of outdoor activities in colder climates, using adequately protective clothing against cold and wind, and having a basic field knowledge of treatment options for frostbite. In conditions conducive to frostbite, patients should be advised to do the following:

  • Seek shelter from wind and cold

  • Wear several layers of light, loose clothing, which traps air for insulation yet provides for adequate insulation; such layering provides better protection than a single bulky layer of heavy clothing

  • Wear mittens instead of gloves because they decrease surface area exposure to the cold; if mittens are removed to allow use of the fingers, wear lightweight gloves under the mittens for protection

  • Wear at least 2 pairs of socks

  • Cover the face and head

  • Choose fabrics suited for the cold (eg, fleece, polypropylene, wool)

  • Avoid restrictive and tight clothing that reduces peripheral circulation

  • Avoid getting clothing wet

  • Avoid remaining in the same position for prolonged periods

  • Check skin every 10-20 minutes for frostbite

  • Avoid smoking, because it causes peripheral vasoconstriction

When frostbite injuries do occur, expeditious treatment at a specialty center results in the least amount of permanent disability and tissue loss.


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