Young children and older people are at greater risk, but no one is immune, experts warn
By Mary Elizabeth Dallas
SUNDAY, Jan. 15, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Did you know frostbite can occur within minutes?
Keeping fingers and toes warm and dry when you work or play outside is a must in icy weather, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) says.
Frostbite occurs when your tissue freezes and ice crystals form inside cells. As these ice crystals thaw, more damage can occur. Older people and young children are especially vulnerable.
Also at high risk: people with diabetes or other medical conditions that affect circulation and those who take certain medicines, such as beta-blockers, which reduce blood flow to the skin. People who have been previously frostbitten are also more susceptible.
But anyone who doesn't dress warmly enough, stays outside in the cold too long, or gets wet can develop frostbite.
Frostbite occurs as the body shifts blood from the extremities to vital organs at the center of the body to maintain its core temperature. Once blood moves away from the fingers, toes and the nose, these parts may lose feeling and color. In some cases, frostbite damage is irreversible, the AAOS notes.
Symptoms of frostbite include numbness or loss of feeling. Skin may appear solid, hard and frozen and is waxy, white or grayish in color. If you see these warning signs, seek immediate medical attention.
Frostbite can lead to cell death, which could result in the amputation of affected limbs. People with frostbite can also develop hypothermia, which is when body temperature drops to dangerous lows.
If medical care isn't available immediately, the AAOS recommends calling for assistance as soon as possible, and:
Taking safety precautions will reduce the danger of frostbite. The AAOS says you should:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more details on frostbite.
SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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