What is Frostbite

Frostbite is a term which is heard as affecting high altitude mountaineers and the Pole explorers. It is caused due to the continuous exposure of the parts of the body to extreme cold. Usually the ailment occurs on parts of the body which are at the extremes and may be subjected to exposure and not necessarily exposed directly to cold conditions. The toe is the most affected part. Other parts that get affected are finger tips, feet, hands, ears, and nose. Curiously frostbite has been explained as the response of the body to protect the internal organs of the body from adverse effects of extreme cold.

When people move about in extreme cold weather in sub zero conditions there is a narrowing of blood vessels in the skin. This happens to increase the blood flow to other parts of the body particularly the organs. Blood flow is less to the skin due to the narrowing of blood vessels which results in less supply of the required oxygen to the skin cell. This naturally leads to the death of skin cells which are affected and what happens thereafter to the concerned area is called frost bite. Figuratively speaking it is sacrificing the skin to save the internal organs.

Early stages when you get frostbite can be treated effectively. However, any symptom of frostbite has to be considered as a medical emergency and requires immediate attention in a hospital. The affected parts get blackened and it may turn into gangrene and infection spreading quickly to other parts of the body. Many cases of frostbite have resulted in amputation.

Frostbite is extremely painful in majority of cases even though a few people may feel numbness in the affected part instead of pain. The bodily constitution also plays a part in the vulnerability of a person to frostbite and some people are less prone than others. People with heart or blood circulatory ailments, diabetes, smokers are more prone to frostbite. Drinking alcohol in cold weather may give the person a feeling of warmth but in fact the body temperature gets lowered and makes the body parts more vulnerable to frostbite.

A hospital is the immediate place which should be the destination for a person affected by frost bite. Till proper and effective medical treatment is given it is best to keep the affected area wrapped in cloth loosely. For relief affected part may be kept in lukewarm water. In addition to frostbite a person may also suffer from hypothermia that needs priority treatment. Several methods in the form of better and more effective clothing are being devised for people who have to venture in cold weather. However the problem persists and the tussle continues between man and the nature.