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Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates
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Don't Let the Frostbite Bite!

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With the New Year came freezing cold temperatures!

Did you know that nearly half of all frostbite cases involve the foot and ankle? That’s a staggering figure, but avoiding frostbite and treating it quickly are both important lessons we can learn. The most effective way of dealing with frostbite is to prevent it from occurring in the first place!

If you know you will be exposed to the cold weather, following these tips can literally save your toes:

  • Drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol, and dress appropriately.

  • If you begin to feel pain, numbness, or tingling in your feet, get out of the cold as soon as possible.

  • Seek professional help as soon as possible if you think you may be suffering from frostbite.

  • Prolonged exposure to extremely cold temperatures can lead to severe injury if proper treatment is not provided in a timely manner.

Signs and symptoms of frostbite include:

  • Pain or prickling progressing to numbness

  • Pale, hard, and cold skin with waxy appearance

  • Flushing due to blood rushing to area after it's re-warmed

  • Burning sensation and swelling from collected fluid that may last for weeks

  • Blisters

  • Black scab-like crust, which may develop several weeks later

Mild frostbite is treated by re-warming the affected area, washing it with an antiseptic, and applying a sterile dressing. If medical care is not available immediately, seek shelter and re-warm a mildly frostbitten area in warm water (101° to 104° F) or by repeatedly applying warm cloths to the area for 30 minutes. Never use hot water, fire, a heating pad, or other dry heat because these methods may burn the skin before the feeling returns.

Frostbite is a very serious injury that can involve significant damage to the feet. In severe cases, surgery may even be necessary, depending on the depth and extent of tissue damage. Therefore, prompt diagnosis and proper treatment by a podiatric physician is essential.

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