How to Treat Frostbite ?

  • First-degree manifested by redness and swelling in the area.
  • Second degree: the second degree with vesicle formation, blisters and ulcers, the deep second-degree


  • Deep second degree: blistering with blood and bluish gray discoloration of the skin.
  • Third degree lesions of subcutaneous tissues (under the skin), muscles, tendons and bones leading to necrosis or death of tissue cells and present with spotting, dry and black.

What are they like?

Milder forms of cold injury are called chilblains and tend to occur in the uttermost parts of the core of the body, like earlobes, nose, cheeks, fingers and toes. These chilblains represent reversible damage and discomfort characterized by pallor and numbness of the skin. Can be prevented with the use of warm clothes, and treated with a simple overheating.

Frostbite is classified by severity:

They are often required four to five days to see if the lesions are superficial or deep, about 45 days to define the limits of necrosis or cell death.

In addition, a surface freezing not a reliable indicator of the absence of deep tissue involvement. It is not uncommon, therefore, considered initially as severe frostbite are successfully retrieved, while other more favorable aspect-escalate into the dreaded necrosis and gangrene, requiring amputation of the affected limb.

How do you diagnose these injuries?

A history of prolonged exposure to cold is a key element that may indicate that there is a freezing injury. The physical examination will help us to classify the type of lesions in superficial or deep.

The realization of a technique called bone scan has meant that, between two and four days following exposure to cold, is known, the extent of necrosis or death of bone cells and correctly define the level of amputation injured. This technique is indicated for frostbite and helps establish early prognosis.

How do you treat frostbite?

Different methods have been used to superheat the extremities affected by a freezing process.

First you should warm the body core before treating local areas injured by the cold. Then you can reheat frozen limb immersing in water between 10 ° and 15 ° C, raising the temperature 5 ° every 5 minutes to a maximum of 40 degrees Celsius. That is, it should warm the frozen progressive.

You can also apply a conservative treatment consisting of rest, elevation of the injured limb, application of tetanus vaccine and antibiotics if infection is suspected.

Where there vesicles and blisters should be drained and washed with antiseptic early, establishing appropriate physical therapy sooner. Analgesics and antiinflammatory employ pain. These cases are absolutely contraindicated snuff and alcohol. It is important not to walk, carry weight or excessive pressure on the frozen areas undergoing thawing.

Only in the most serious cases and have not responded to previous treatment will require reconstruction or amputation frozen.

What consequences can be after a freeze?

After freezing a limb may be some consequences, such as excessive sweating of the skin in the area, pain, insensitivity to cold, numbness, abnormal skin color, crisp, dry skin, joint pain, joint swelling, abnormal nails, etc.. These symptoms or disorders may worsen during the winter and after re-exposure to cold.

Can prevent frostbite?

Most cold injuries can be avoided in a gradual exposing at low temperatures and using appropriate clothing when temperatures are near or below the freezing.

Pertusa Dr. Salvador Martinez , a specialist in Family and Community Medicine