Maintaining Your Health
A Christian Brothers Services Publication

This Issue

Enjoy the Benefits
of Chicken

Turn to healthy
chicken dinners this
winter to fill you up.

Have a Change
of Heart About Shoveling Snow

Heart disease and strokes increase more than 50 percent in the winter months.

Don't Get Bit
With Frostbite!

Prevent frostbite this season with these simple steps.

I Spy Healthy Eyes

Your eyes are at greater risk of UV rays during the winter.


Don’t Get Bit With Frostbite!

Whether you are shoveling your driveway, sledding with the kids or enjoying many of the numerous wintertime activities that keep you in the elements for an extended period of time, beware of frostbite.

According to, frostbite occurs when the tissues freeze. This happens when you are exposed to temperatures below the freezing point of skin. The nose, cheeks, ears, fingers and toes are the body parts that are most susceptible to frostbite.

Everyone is at risk of getting frostbite, even people who are used to living in colder climates. The very old, very young, those who are not in good physical condition and people with diabetes are at a higher risk of exposure. The groups that are at the greatest risk of frostbite are people who:

  • spend a great deal of time outdoors, such as the homeless, hikers, hunters, etc.;
  • under the influence of alcohol;
  • are elderly without adequate heating, food and shelter;
  • are exhausted or excessively dehydrated;
  • are mentally ill.

In superficial frostbite, you may experience burning, numbness, tingling, itching or cold sensations in the affected areas. These areas may appear to be white and frozen, and if you press on them, they retain some resistance. In deep frostbite, there is an initial decrease in sensation that is completely lost. Deep frostbite also causes swelling and blood-filled blisters that may appear over white or yellowish skin. This skin tone can look waxy and eventually turn blue as it rewarms. The skin area that is affected is hard, and has no resistance when pressed on.

If you are affected by frostbite, you may experience significant pain as the areas re-warm and blood flow is re-established. This pain will eventually turn into a throbbing sensation in a couple of days, and may last weeks to months until the final tissue separation between healthy and dead tissues is complete. After this waiting period, 65 percent of people will suffer long-term symptoms because of their frostbite.

To properly diagnose frostbite, your doctor will need to see and feel the affected area.  He/she will also need to gather information about your exposure and your condition prior to your cold injury.

If you believe you have been exposed to frostbite, follow these steps:

  • First, call for help.
  • Keep the affected body part elevated in order to reduce swelling.
  • Move to a warm area to prevent further heat loss. Avoid walking on frostbitten feet as this can lead to further damage.
  • Note that many people with frostbite may be experiencing hypothermia. Saving their lives is more important than preserving a finger or foot.
  • Remove all wet clothing and constrictive jewelry because they may further block blood flow.
  • Give the person warm, nonalcoholic, noncaffeinated fluids to drink.
  • Apply a dry, sterile bandage. Place cotton between any involved fingers or toes (to prevent rubbing), and take the person to a medical facility as soon as possible.
  • Never rewarm an affected area if there is any chance it may freeze again. This thaw-refreeze cycle is very harmful and leads to disastrous results.
  • Also, avoid a gradual thaw either in the field or in the transport vehicle. The most effective method is to rewarm the area quickly. Therefore, keep the injured part away from sources of heat until you arrive at a treatment facility where proper rewarming can take place.
  • Do not rub the frozen area with snow (or anything else). The friction created by this technique will only cause further tissue damage.
  • Above all, keep in mind that the final amount of tissue destruction is proportional to the time it remains frozen, not to the absolute temperature to which it was exposed. Therefore, rapid transport to a hospital is very important.

To prevent injuries caused by the cold elements, dress for the weather by wearing layers.   Clothes should fit loosely to avoid a decrease in blood flow to the arms and legs.  Mittens are much better than gloves as they keep your fingers together while warming each other.  Also remember to wear two pairs of socks, with the inner layer being made of a synthetic fiber and the outer layer being made of wool.  Your shoes should be waterproof and you should always cover your face, nose and ears at all times.