Frostbite symptoms and treatment - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Frostbite symptoms and treatment

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KENNEWICK, WA - This cold winter we've been having can raise the threat for frostbite. We sent reporter Jaclyn Selesky out to talk to an ER doctor at a local hospital to find out how you can treat frostbite and prevent it. 

Frostbite is when parts of your exposed skin freezes in severe winter temperatures. The most common parts of your body to freeze are your extremities like your fingers, toes, ears, chin, and nose. 

Most of the time, frostbite happens in two stages. The first?

"A feeling of numbness and cold in the extremity," said Dr. Edward Lisenbey, MD, with Kadlec, "often accompanied by redness of the skin initially, which can then become pale, then painless, and loss of sensation."

The second stage of frostbite is when the blood supply isn't getting to the deeper soft tissues, which is when your skin starts to look dark blue or black.

"It can even involve the muscles and fat tissues below the skin, and that's when people are at risk for losing a limb or losing part of a limb," Dr. Lisenbey said.

So what do you do when you start to notice these symptoms?

"Most importantly is to come in out of the cold weather and start a gradual rewarm process of the extremity," advised Dr. Lisenbey. 

He stressed that it should be a gradual rewarming process. He says you should take a warm washcloth to soak whatever has frostbite, as opposed to running it under hot water.

"Oftentimes when you've lost feeling, you cannot realize that you've exposed yourself to hotter water than is necessary."

So at what point would you need to go to the emergency room? Dr. Lisenbey says if your normal coloring and sensation isn't returning to the frostbitten area, or if that area starts to blister, then it's time to get medical attention. 

Some other helpful tips to prevent frostbite is to, of course, wear your hat, gloves, and lots of layers with loose-fitting clothing.