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Injury Prevention and First Aid Tips

Many emergency room visits are preventable. Here are some first aid tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe from common injuries:

Frostbite

Nov 18, 2019

Did you know that frostbite is actually a type of burn? You can protect yourself and your family by knowing and recognizing the symptoms of frostbite and how to prevent it.

Frostbite occurs when extreme cold, wet and/or windy weather freezes areas of the body that are poorly protected from the elements. Fingers, toes, noses and ears are the most commonly affected areas of the body, as well as those areas with poor circulation. Detroit's homeless population is especially vulnerable because of Michigan's harsh winters.

A physician should examine all frostbite as soon as possible. Prompt treatment will increase the chances for complete recovery.

Stages and Symptoms of Frostbite:

  1. Tingling and burning are early symptoms and a warning to get out of the cold immediately. If this isn't possible, move around vigorously to increase circulation.
  2. The next stage is numbness. At this point, frostbite has probably begun to set it.
  3. In the third stage, skin may appear pale or white and cold to the touch.
  4. During the final stage, there is swelling and bleeding, and blisters may form after the skin thaws.

First Aid for Frostbite:

  • If frostbite is suspected, the individual should move indoors and change into warm, dry clothing.
  • Re-warm the affected areas with warm water (104 - 108 degrees F). Do not rub affected area(s) with snow.
  • Avoid applying pressure to the frostbitten area(s), as this may increase the injury.
  • Cover blisters and injured areas with soft dressings, and seek medical attention for further treatment.
Tingling, itching or burning sensations are signs that circulation is returning to normal. Smoking and drinking alcohol will reduce circulation to the injured areas, and should be avoided.

Preventing Frostbite:

Cold-weather sports and activities can be a fun part of Michigan winters. If you're planning to be outside in cold weather for an extended period of time, take the proper precautions to help prevent frostbite. If your clothing or shoes gets wet, it is important that you seek shelter immediately to give the wet articles time to dry.

  • Keep your skin dry. Wet skin freezes more rapidly.
  • Dress in layers of light clothing, rather than bulky, heavy clothes. Waffle weave and cotton clothing are good choices because they trap warm air. Fabrics made with polypropylene will reduce heat loss by keeping perspiration away from your body. A closely woven shirt and slacks, combined with a sweater is a good choice of outfit. Wool is a good insulator. A hooded parka provides an effective outer layer.
  • Light cotton socks topped by wool or synthetic socks will help keep your feet warm. Using newspaper or other paper under your socks can provide temporary insulation if socks and shoes are wet. Boots should be high enough to cover your ankles. Avoid boots that are too tight and will decrease circulation.
  • Down-filled garments are warm, but they're useless when wet. Synthetics provide better insulation in adverse weather condition.
  • Wear a hat or earmuffs to cover your ears. Your body loses the greatest amount of heat through the scalp. Ears are especially prone to frostbite, since the skin an underlying tissues are very thin.
  • Protect your hands with mittens rather than gloves so fingers can warm each other. Inserting newspaper can provide temporary insulation if mittens or gloves are wet.
  • Do not wear metal earring outside in the cold, since metal conducts cold and can increase the risk of frostbite.
  • Avoid smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages when outside in cold weather. Smoking decreases your circulation, and alcohol increases the rate at which the body cools and can cloud your judgment and sense of touch.