Ski Vacation Alert: Understanding Frostbite

Ski Vacation Alert: Understanding Frostbite

During your skiing holiday, prolonged exposure to a cold environment can result in frostbite. Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissue. Before you go on vacation, it’s important to understand this injury first.

Frostbite commonly occurs on fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks, and chin. Normally, skin exposed to cold weather is most susceptible to frostbite. But it can also appear on skin covered by gloves or other clothing.

What are its symptoms?

When you get frostbite, your body will show symptoms such as cold skin and a stinging sensation; Deafness; red, white, bluish-white, or gray-yellow skin; hard or waxy looking skin; and muscle stiffness.

What are its causes?

One cause of frostbite is wearing inappropriate clothing. If your clothing doesn’t protect you from extreme cold or is too tight, chances of frostbite are high.

Another cause is long exposure to cold environment. A temperature of -15 °C to -27 °C increases the risk of frostbite in less than 30 minutes.

Finally, touching materials such as ice, ice packs, or frozen metal also leads to this injury.

How can we prevent it?

First, limit your time outdoors in cold weather. Stay up to date with weather forecasts and wind chill readings. Exposed skin can develop frostbite within minutes under these extreme conditions.

Second, wear appropriate clothing. More importantly, change your wet clothes (like gloves, hats, and socks) as soon as possible.

Third, be ready. If traveling in cold weather, take emergency supplies and warm clothing in case you get stranded. If you are in a remote area, share your route and expected return date with others.

Fourth: stay healthy. Exercise. Eat a balanced meal and stay hydrated. Don’t drink alcohol before going outdoors. Alcoholic beverages cause your body to lose heat faster. When you’re cold, a warm, sweet drink like hot chocolate will help you stay warm.

First aid

If it happens during your ski trip, you can provide the following first aid.

First check if you are hypothermic. Signs include tremors, slurred speech, sleepiness and loss of coordination. Also protect your skin from further exposure. Do not rub the affected area.

Second, stay away from the cold. Once inside, remove wet clothing. Gently rewarm frostbite by soaking in warm water (37-42°C) for 15-30 minutes. If a thermometer is not available, test the water by placing an uninjured hand on it. Wrap the affected area to prevent refreezing. If numbness or pain persists during the warm-up, or if blisters develop, it’s best to seek emergency medical attention. If you are in pain, take over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce pain and inflammation. If possible, avoid walking on frozen feet or toes. This further damages the tissue.

The chances of getting frostbite during your ski vacation are high, so it’s important to know about this injury. In the end, we always come back to the adage, “prevention is better than cure”.

Thanks to Donald Soolar