With winter weather setting in, it is important to cover up areas of the body that are most susceptible to damage from the cold. Tissue damage can result from exposure to both non freezing and freezing temperatures.
Chilblains or Pernio, is an inflammation of the small blood vessels in the skin after exposure to damp, non freezing air. Red patches develop on the skin that can be itchy, swell and sometimes blister. Chilblains can be treated with topical steroids and usually resolves in 1-2 weeks.
Frostbite is an injury to the skin and underlying tissue from exposure to freezing temperatures. Frostbite can set in within 5 minutes and may still occur despite wearing protective gear such as gloves and boots. Fingers, toes, ears, cheeks, chin and nose are most susceptible.
There are varying degrees of frostbite based on the severity of symptoms.
1. Early/Frostnip: skin becomes red and tender. One may also experience itching, tingling or burning.
2. Intermediate/Superficial frostbite: skin becomes hard and blisters may form.
3. Advanced/Deep frostbite: skin becomes hard and cold with dark color changes.
Treatment includes seeking immediate shelter, rewarming the affected area(s), topical steroid creams and oral anti inflammatory medications.
Prevention is always the best cure! If you must be out in cold, be sure to wear layers and wear the appropriate materials depending upon how cold, wet and windy the weather is expected to be.