When the winter hits hard and temperature goes way below freezing point, it’s important – more than ever – to remember about possibilities of frostbites. We are used to think that frostbite is reserved exclusively for people who climb high in the mountains and are exposed to -50 degrees Celsius all day long. But it can happen everywhere – while camping, skiing or whatever you do outside when it’s very cold. So, how to recognize, treat and, above all things, prevent frostbites? Here we go.
First stage of injury: freezing
In simple words, frostbite is basically the freezing of tissues. There is a fluid between cells that can freeze in the temperature −4 °C (25 °F) or below and ice crystals formed in this way can mechanically damage cells. That explains why rubbing your hands to warm them up is rather bad idea. Imagine there are sharp ice crystals between your cells and you crash them. It basically sounds like rubbing sand on the burned area. Quite painful.
It might seem that rubbing cold hands is a natural human instinct, so why should we get rid of it? The problem is that this reaction to the feeling of being cold is not natural at all. It is learned – by watching others. Therefore, it is worth changing this habit and learning to warm your hands by hiding them under your armpits. The temperature close to the body is usually the highest, because our body fights hard to ensure that where our life-giving intestines are, the warmth is the most. Therefore, the most frequently frostbitten parts of the body are the arms, legs, fingers and ears – from the perspective of being able to keep the body alive, they do not have priority status. Therefore, the brain is the first to cut off their energy supply.
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