This winter started out so mild that it didn’t seem that we would need to even think about frostbite or take precautions to prevent it. Now that the weather has turned much colder, frostbite is something that everyone should consider. My daughter was outside for a long time shoveling snow in the driveway and noticed that her face was red and painful when she went inside the house.

Frostbite can damage both the surface of your skin and the structure underneath. If the frostbite is severe enough, it can even damage muscle and bones. This damage can be permanent. Exposed skin is the most vulnerable but even skin covered by clothing can be frostbitten.

A milder form of frostbite is called frostnip. I think that this might be what my daughter experienced. This form does not cause permanent damage. Actual frostbite does require medical treatment to prevent complications such as infection and possible nerve damage.

If you spend much time outside in the cold, pay attention if you feel a prickling sensation on your skin. This is the first sign of frostbite. After the prickling sensation, your skin can become numb. It can also change color; it may turn red, white or blue-gray. It can feel hard or look waxy. You may notice that your are moving slow or feeling clumsy. After the skin warms again, you may notice blisters if you have a severe case of frostbite. Seek medical attention. The most common places on the body for frostbite are your ears, fingers, toes, or face.

Take precautions to avoid frostbite when you are spending prolonged time outside this winter. Go inside and warm up if you begin to feel uncomfortable in the cold.

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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