Posts for category: frostbite

The polar vortex and temperatures far below zero are being stubborn and sticking around, so like it or not, there's sure to be plenty of cold days ahead this winter. Those keeping an eye on the news during this winter's Arctic-style weather may have heard warnings about how quickly frostbite can set in.

As podiatrists at DM Foot and Ankle, Dr. Michelle Kim and I know that frostbite can often target the feet (the hands, ears and nose are also commonly effected.)

Frostbite happens when the skin and body tissues are exposed to cold temperatures. When exposed to extreme cold temperatures like we've had this winter, It can happen within minutes. Even in above-freezing temperatures, frostbite can occur when there's if there's a strong wind chill.

Some of the following types are more likely to develop frostbite:


·         Those who take medicines called beta-blockers


·         Those who smoke


·         Those who have diabetes

·         The very young or very old

·         Those who have Raynaud’s

Meanwhile, some of the signs and symptoms of frostbite include the following:

·         Pain or a prickling sensation that progresses to numbness


·         Pale, hard and cold skin that appears waxy


·         A burning sensation and swelling from collected fluid (this may last for weeks)


·         Blisters


·         A black, scab-like crust that may develop several weeks after exposure


·         Some people may get tissue injury known as chilblains or pernio – not quite frostbite but cold injury to the capillaries.  There may be redness, blistering, itching and pain to the exposed toes.


For those with frostbite, the key to treating it is to gradually warm the affected area.  This can be done by doing things such as:


·         Getting out of the cold. Once you're inside, remove wet clothes such as socks or gloves.

·         Gradually warm frostbitten areas. Place frostbitten hands or feet in warm water. Wrap other areas in a warm blanket. Avoid direct heat, such as a heat lamp, a fireplace or a heating pad – this can cause burns that you may not be able to feel while your skin is numb.

·         Don't walk on frostbitten feet – this could further damage the tissue.

·         Seek emergency medical help if you have numbness or sustained pain.


The key is prevention.  Keep warm, don't stay outside for extended periods of time, and always wear gloves and protective boots.  Shearling-lined boots or gloves can keep those digits warm.

If you think you might be suffering from frostbite or chilblains, call our Lemont office (or if it's after-hours, an emergency medical care facility.) We can get patients into our office same-day, so don't wait to seek treatment.


By Diana Emini