Frostbite

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Frostbite is an injury that happens when the skin and tissue beneath the skin freeze. People usually get frostbite on the hands, feet, nose, and ears.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Medicines:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotic medicine may be given to treat an infection caused by bacteria.

  • NSAIDs: This medicine decreases swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs are available without a doctor's order. Ask which medicine is right for you and how much to take. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems if not taken correctly.

  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease severe pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your pain medicine.

  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Manage symptoms of frostbite:

  • Elevate: Raise the frostbitten area above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop the frostbitten area on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated.

  • Foot cradle: This will help keep bedding off your feet. Cut 2 sides off a large cardboard box. Put the box under your sheets at the foot of your bed. Put one of the open sections facing the head of the bed and the other open section against the mattress.

  • Activity: Move the part of your body that has frostbite as much as possible. This will help keep blood flowing through the area and help it heal faster. Do not walk on frostbitten feet if possible.

Prevent frostbite:

  • Wear several layers of loose, warm clothes: Put these layers under a windproof and waterproof coat. Your head, face, and neck should be covered with a warm hat and scarf. Breathing through your scarf helps prevent loss of body heat. Make sure your hands, ears, and feet are covered.

  • Use the buddy system when you are outside for long periods: This is when you and the people you are with check each other for white areas on your face and ears.

  • Do not drink alcohol or smoke before you go out in the cold: Alcohol and tobacco increase your risk of frostbite.

First aid for frostbite:

  • Cover the frostbitten area with extra clothing or blankets.

  • Warm the frostbitten area against your body or someone else's body if possible.

  • Rewarm the frostbitten area of your body in warm water as soon as possible. Do not use hot water.

  • Drink warm liquids.

  • Do not put snow or direct heat on the frostbitten area.

  • Do not walk on frostbitten feet.

  • Do not rub the frostbitten area.

Contact your primary healthcare provider if:

  • You have blisters filled with blood.

  • Your pain gets worse.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have swelling, redness, or pus in the area that was frostbitten.

  • You have a fever.

  • The skin with frostbite turns black.

  • You lose feeling in the area that was frostbitten.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Frostbite (Aftercare Instructions)

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