Frost bite refers to the injury which results when different parts of the body are overexposed to low temperatures (temperatures below freezing point). These low temperatures lead to freezing of the skin as well as the tissues that lie underneath. Some of the most affected regions are the peripheral parts, and they include the feet, the toes as well as the fingers. There are varying degrees of frost bite, and each of these levels requires a different treatment plan. The basic similarity among all these treatments is that the patient must be taken away from the cold- this is the first step of first aid treatment for frost bite.
What leads to frostbite?
In the human body, oxygen is carried to different regions of the body by blood to ensure that tissues remain healthy and normal physiological processes carry on normally. In order to maintain a homeostatic environment, the blood vessels will usually narrow when the body is exposed to these low temperatures. The reason for this is that the blood needs to be channeled from the extremities (the fingers, feet and toes) to the vital organs in order to sustain life. If exposure is continued for a considerable period of time, the lack of oxygen causes cell damage in the affected regions.
What are the different levels of frost bite?
It is important to know what the different levels are as this will determine the course of action for the first aid treatment of frost bite. The levels are determined by the degree of injury, and this makes reference to the depth of the frostbite.
- First degree frostbite will usually affect just the top layer of the skin, the epidermis.
- Second degree frostbite causes damage to the epidermis and portions of the dermis layer.
- Third degree frostbite results in the damage of both the epidermis and dermis regions as well as the adipose tissue.
- Fourth degree frostbite affects the skin, the fat layer as well as muscles and bones.
First aid treatment for frostbite
It is important to shield the patient away from the cold as well as to change their wet clothing. This is done to prevent additional heat loss. The patient must also be rehydrated to ensure they get enough fluids. It is important that the patient does not walk on feet with frostbite as this could lead to further damage.
Following administration of first aid treatment for frostbite, the patient may be subjected to re-warming treatment. This treatment allows for the affected regions to thaw progressively. This however, depends on the nature of the frostbite. In extensive frostbite, it is important that any life-threatening conditions are attended to first. Re-warming is done using heated water that is maintained at temperatures of between 37 and 39 degrees C. the procedure is repeated at least twice daily. Analgesics are often required to address the pain. Thrombolytics (drugs used to eliminate blood clots) may also be required in order to increase blood supply to affected regions.