In a frigid environment, your skin and the tissue just below can start to freeze and crystallize in as little as a few minutes. This condition is called frostbite, and it’s no minor matter, but rather a serious injury which can permanently affect your appendages. Knowing how to properly treat it can mean the difference between a sore hand and an amputated one.
Your first course of action should always be to call 911 or to get yourself to a hospital. The damage may run deeper than you can visually assess. In the meantime, follow the steps above to do your best to ensure that no lasting tissue damage occurs.
1: Identify frostbitten areas by sight and feel. At first the skin is red and sore, before becoming pale, numb, and unusually firm.
2: Dry the area, if wet, by dabbing it with a dry cloth. Do not rub frostbitten skin, as it may further damage the area.
3: Cover affected skin with a clean, dry cloth and keep it protected from abrasion and further exposure.
4: Find a protected environment where you can start the thawing process. Do not begin treatment until you are sure the affected area will not freeze again.
5: Heat water to 100-112ْ F. If you do not have a thermometer, test that the water feels warm, but not hot.
6: Soak the skin, adding more warm water as necessary, until you have regained sensation and color in the skin.