Frostbite is a term used for describing injuries made from excessive exposure of one’s body to cold. This range of injury may vary in scale and severity. Additionally, the seriousness of a frostbite injury depends on many surrounding factors such as the type of clothing, humidity, water exposure as well as one’s climatic history. Namely, those more used to colder weather will prove to be more cold-resistant and less prone to frostbite than those who were bound to warmer climate.
The true destructive power that frostbite can have on one’s body was most clearly seen in many wars our civilization has fought. Numerous armies, for example, German army in WWII, considered frostbite one of the toughest enemies when they reached SSSR.
Frostbite has phases which are classified progressively. The first phase is called Pre-freezing. As the name itself suggests, it involves the first reaction of one’s body to excessive cold. One’s body temperature drops rapidly, and the body itself engages processes which are to raise the temperature back. This “first aid” action that our body may perform greatly depends from those climate factors mentioned above; people who are more used to low temperature climates are more likely to have their bodies fight frostbite.
The second phase starts to be more serious as it involves the formation of ice crystals inside one’s skin, rapidly escalating.
In the final phase of this injury, damage to the skin and the tissue, even bones, is done, most often involving gangrene or necrosis. This stage is very close to being irreversible since, in most cases, amputation of frostbit body parts is necessary.
As for visible symptoms of this injury, they vary depending on the stage the frostbite itself is at. The least serious cases express themselves through irritation, numbness and redness of the skin. As the injury gets more serious, severe pain, blisters forming black spots of dead skin cells and, in most radical cases, full formed ice surrounding may be present.
When it comes to treating frostbite, in the past people thought that if exposed to more cold, the frostbite will reduce. However, it was proven to be quite the contrary; warm treatment healed frostbite significantly. First of all, clothes or similar obstacles exposed to the cold and wrapped around the injury should be removed and warm, dry compression applied. Frequent re-application is necessary and proves to be helpful although there are still quandaries to whether this should be done on the spot or after reaching medical assistance facilities.