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The ABC on Frostbite

One of the risks you’re exposing to when going into the outdoors during winter time is getting frostbites. If ever get lost, among all the things you need to take care of (finding shelter, sending surviving signals, making a fire and so on), you should also know a thing about frostbites.

What are frostbites?

Even though frostbites are treatable, doesn’t mean they’re less dangerous as they do affect the skin. They appear when a body part isn’t properly covered and you’re staying out in freezing temperatures for too long.

As water turns to ice when temperatures go way below zero, your toes, fingers, feet, even you ear and nose may freeze too. The farther they are from your core, the higher the risk for them to be affected by the low blood flow, as an answer to cold.

The longer you stay outside and the colder and windier it is, the higher the risk for a frostbite to appear. Sometimes, it can happen in just 5 minutes.

Know the symptoms

As you’re standing in freezing temperatures, your skin may get sore or red, a symptom known as “frostnip”- the early sign of a frostbite. The second you notice it, you need to find warm shelter.

There are three stages of frostbite and they all depend on how deep it goes into your body.

  • Early stage

In this phase, your skin changes its color to white or a pale yellow. You may also notice a burn, itch or sting, just like when you’re feeling “pins and needles”.

  • Intermediate stage

You may start noticing how your skin gets shiny/waxy and becomes hard. As your skin is melting, blisters filled with blood or fluid may appear.

  • Advanced stage

By this time, your skin darkens and it’s already very hard and cold to the touch. it may even look blue and you’re only minutes away from turning black.

How to keep frostbite at a distance?

It goes without saying that the layering principle is one of the most efficient ways to stay warm when out in the outdoors in the winter. You never want to wear tight clothing as it’s only going to increase the risks of frostbite. You should go with loose layers so that your body heat gets all over your body.

You may want to go with three layers, as it follows:

  • You want material that keeps you dry for the first layer
  • An insulated material (wool and fleece are good options) is great as a second layer
  • Always go with a wind- and waterproof material on top as a third layer

It’s also important to wear a hat that covers your ears and head and wool/fleece keep you very warm.

Feet are also very vulnerable to frostbite which is why you should go with a pair of wool socks over some that wick moisture, or wear some Gore-Tex boots.

Don’t forget about the insulating mittens/gloves that you shouldn’t take off even when you’re using your phone.

Last tip? If you’re feeling sweaty, you may want to unzip for a couple of minutes. Wearing wet clothing (whether it’s from snow or sweat, it’s all the same) is only going to increase the risk for you to get frostbite.

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