LAGRANGEVILLE – With temperatures throughout the Hudson Valley expected to dip into the teens today and wind chills as cold as -25 degrees, frostbite is a potential danger to the frigid forecast.
Frostbite is skin and underlying tissue damaged by extreme cold. Fingers, toes, ears and nose are most susceptible to frostbite as they are often left exposed. While very mild frostbite can be treated with first-aid measures such as rewarming the skin, moderate to severe cases require medical attention. Frostbite can cause infections and permanent nerve damage. If left untreated, amputation could be necessary.
Frostnip is the earliest stage and involves painful sensations and red skin that responds to pressure. Superficial frostbite, or the second stage, is characterized by numbness and white or grayish-yellow skin that still feels soft. Deep frostbite involves numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin that feels waxy and very firm. Dizziness, confusion and fever may also be present.
Paul Accordino, program director of the Wound Care Center at Putnam Hospital Center, offers tips on how to prevent frostbite and what to do if you have it.
· Wear layers
· Make sure your undershirt is tucked tightly into your pants
· Tuck your socks over the bottoms of your pants
· Wear a warm hat with ear flaps
· Wear mittens instead of glove as they are warmer
· Tuck the tops of mittens over sleeves
When to go inside
· Bring children in every hour to warm up
· Change or go in immediately if wet
· Check your skin for frostbite every half-hour by pressing it to feel how firm it is and wiggling your fingers and toes
· Go to a warm place
· Immerse affected area in warm not hot water and soak for 30 to 40 minutes
· Warm water should be the only method used to warm the skin as other methods could cause further skin and tissue damage
· Don’t rub the skin with your hands or towel
· Get medical attention to assess the injuries
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can be used in severe cases of frostbite that involves extreme tissue damage. Hyperbaric oxygen helps bring blood flow to dead tissue, Accordino said.
Each of the three hospitals in the Health Quest system – Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck and Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel – offer hyperbaric oxygen therapies.