CHILD’S HEALTH/SKIN DISORDERS: FROSTBITE

Frostbite is the name for the condition of the skin when it has been exposed to extreme cold, and has turned white and cold.

Cause

Direct exposure to extreme cold freezes the tissues in the area temporarily. Clinical features

The most commonly affected parts of the body are the fingers and toes, although other extremities such as the nose and earlobes can also be affected. The skin is white and cold, and your child may complain of tingling and numbness in the affected area. Frostbite may occur after a child has played in the snow without wearing adequate clothing such as waterproof gloves and shoes. It may also occur in an instant if your child touches very cold metal.

Treatment

The quicker the frostbitten area is warmed up, the better. The quickest way to do this is with a warm bath, but make sure you do not make the water so hot that it will scald your child. The rewarming process may take up to half an hour, and your child may start to complain of pain as the frostbite reverses. A pinkish-red colour should return to the affected area if rewarming has been successful. Be very careful to rewarm the area slowly and gently. Do not place the frostbitten part directly in front of a heater, as the skin is very sensitive and can readily burn.

When to see your doctor

• if blisters appear in the frostbitten area;

• if the above measures are not effective;

• if your child is drowsy, shivering;

• if your child was exposed to extreme conditions of cold.

Prevention

Frostbite can be avoided by ensuring that your child is dressed warmly, including hat, gloves and warm socks and shoes. When you go to the snow, make sure that your child has waterproof clothing.

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