Freeze burn, cold burn or frostbite occurs when the body is exposed to cold temperatures for enough time to cause damage. In sufficiently cold temperatures, the body transfers heat from the skin to the cold element in contact with the body, which causes damage. Frostbitten or cold-burnt skin appears hard and pale, and can become numb. Hands, feet, nose and ears are most susceptible to freeze burn, and in order to save the affected area, first aid treatment is immediately required.
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Seek shelter immediately. To treat freeze burn, removing the source of cold is necessary.
Remove wet clothing and contracting jewellery. If the body shows signs of hypothermia, treat it immediately by wrapping in warm blankets.
Soak burnt areas in warm water. Water should be between 40.0 to 42.2 degrees C; hot water can cause further damage. Soak for 20 to 30 minutes, keeping the water circulating.
Apply dressings to the burnt areas. Dressing should be clean and sterile. Take care to separate fingers and toes.
Wrap the areas in warm blankets and keep the area from refreezing.
Tips and warnings
- Freeze burnt areas should be moved as little as possible, even after they are thawed.
- Do not use heating elements like radiators or heating blankets or hair dryers to thaw skin. Direct heat can further damage skin.
- Frostbite is a serious medical condition that can result in loss of limbs. Professional medical care should be sought immediately if it is available.
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