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.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

RISKS:

Even with treatment, you may have severe damage to blood vessels, muscles, and nerve tissue. You may lose a body part that has severe frostbite. You may be sensitive to cold and have burning and tingling in the areas of your body that had frostbite. Without treatment, you could lose skin or a body part that has severe frostbite.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Oxygen:

You may need extra oxygen to help you breathe easier. It may be given through a plastic mask over your mouth and nose. It may also be given through a nasal cannula. A nasal cannula is a pair of short, thin tubes that rest just inside your nose.

Pulse oximeter:

A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your oxygen level is low or cannot be read.

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 your caregiver 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 ask for more pain medicine.

  • Td vaccine: This vaccine is a booster shot used to help prevent diphtheria and tetanus. The Td booster may be given to adolescents and adults every 10 years or for certain wounds and injuries.

Tests:

  • ECG: This is also called an EKG. A short period of electrical activity in your heart is recorded to check for damage or problems.

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your blood vessels. An MRI may show if there is any damage to your blood vessels. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell caregivers if you are allergic to iodine or shellfish. You may also be allergic to the dye. Do not enter the MRI room with any metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell caregivers if you have any metal in or on your body.

  • Bone scan: This is a test to look at your bones. You are given a small amount of dye in an IV. Pictures are taken of your bones to see if there is any damage from frostbite.

Treatments:

  • Warm bath: A warm bath may help rewarm the areas of your body that have frostbite. The sooner the frozen part is rewarmed, the less chance there is of ice crystals forming in tissues.

  • Bandages: The areas of your body with frostbite may need to be bandaged. Clean, sterile, bandages will help keep these areas from getting infected. Gauze pads may be put on and between injured fingers or toes.

  • 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 frame keeps bedding off your feet if they were 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 (Inpatient Care)

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