Staying active outdoors during the winter can be great for your health. But it’s important to be vigilant when planning extended outdoor excursions; overexposure to cold and wind poses the risk of frostbite. This potentially serious condition often affects toes, feet, fingers, hands, nose, and ears. The National Institutes of Health notes symptoms start with a pins and needles sensation followed by numbness — and the skin will be hard, pale, and cold.
Before your next winter adventure, remember to…
- Wear loose, layered clothes: Put on 2 pairs of socks, wind– and water–resistant clothes, and mittens instead of gloves.
- Cover all areas of the skin: Wear a hat and scarf. Check for tears or rips in clothing that may expose small areas of skin.
Avoid smoking and alcohol: They decrease blood circulation.
- Seek immediate medical attention for frostbite — it could raise the risk of hypothermia. If a doctor is unavailable, follow advice from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons:
- Get to a warm room
- Remove any wet clothing
Warm the affected areas in water (not hot) for 30–45 minutes — unless they might again be exposed to the cold; do not use dry heat (for example, a heating pad, sunlamp, or fire) or the skin could burn
Cover blisters with a sterile cloth
Rest the affected areas; do not rub.