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The Fight Against Frostbite

The Fight Against Frostbite

Working outdoors can be especially tricky in the winter months. Be aware of the dangers.

Winter has arrived.

As a blast of icy weather moves across the country, closing schools, causing delays and even, in Minnesota, shutting down a ski resort, the threat of cold-related injuries becomes more pronounced, especially for those workers whose jobs require prolonged exposure to the elements.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a helpful guide to recognizing and reacting to frostbite, an injury sustained from freezing most often affecting the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes.

Is it Frostbite?

  • A white or grayish-yellow skin area

  • Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy

  • Numbness


Now What?


  • Get into a warm room as soon as possible.

  • Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes—this increases the damage.

  • Immerse the affected area in warm—not hot—water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).

  • Or, warm the affected area using body heat. For example, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.

  • Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.

  • Don’t use a heating pad, heat lamp or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.

The CDC recommends anyone with signs of frostbite seek immediate medical care both to take care of the affected skin and to check for hypothermia.

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