What You Should Know about Frostbite
By Idaho Foot & Ankle Associates
February 24, 2020
Category: Podiatry
Tags: frostbite  

The feet are particularly vulnerable to frostbite, which is a condition that can occur due to exposure to extreme cold. The feet can be affected by frostbite more quickly than other parts of the body since they are farthest from the heart and core, where it is warmest. Medical treatment should be sought as soon as possible if frostbite is suspected. The skilled podiatrists at Idaho Foot & Ankle Associates Boise, Nampa/Caldwell, and Meridian, ID are experienced at effectively treating frostbite.

Symptoms and Stages of Frostbite

It is always important to seek medical treatment if frostbite might have occurred. Some of the symptoms associated with frostbite include:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Blistering
  • Cold sensations
  • Burning sensation
  • Skin appears hard or waxy
  • Joint and muscle stiffness
  • Loss of sensation

Frostbite develops in three stages. During the initial stage of frostbite, only the top layer of the skin is affected. As frostbite progresses, additional layers beyond the epidermis become damaged. The three stages of frostbite include:

  • Frostnip — First-degree frostbite that affects only the epidermis. It causes a cold feeling, redness, and numbness.
  • Superficial Frostbite — Second-degree frostbite that affects the dermis, which is the layer of skin below the epidermis. The skin begins feeling warm and fluid-filled blisters can appear within 24 to 36 hours after the skin has been rewarmed.
  • Deep Frostbite — Third-degree frostbite that affects the subcutaneous tissue below the epidermis and dermis. This is the most serious stage of frostbite. Numbness, large blisters, and joint and muscles stiffness commonly occur at this stage. As tissues dies, deeply frostbitten skin eventually turns hard and black.

Treating Frostbite on the Feet

Exposure to extreme cold can cause the water found within skin tissues to freeze and form ice crystals, which can cause skin tissue to die. The feet are particularly vulnerable to frostbite since they are so far from the body’s core. The best way to prevent frostbite is to keep the feet dry and warm at all times, and to limit exposure to cold temperatures.

If frostbite does occur, see our podiatrists for treatment as soon as possible. Even if it is only first-degree frostbite, it is critical to seek professional medical treatment and ensure proper healing and to avoid causing further damage to the feet. For example, it can be tempting to aggressively rub the feet or use a hair dryer to try warming them up. However, doing so could lead to burns if the skin has become numb and lost sensation

When dealing with frostbite, it is best to seek professional medical attention right away. The podiatrists here at Idaho Foot & Ankle Associates can administer the appropriate treatment methods based on the stage of frostbite that has developed. To schedule an appointment at our Boise location, call (208) 327-0627. For our Meridian office, call (208) 888-9876 or call (208) 463-1660 for the Nampa/Caldwell location.