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Backpacker Magazine – January 2009

Survive This: Frostbitten Feet

Frostbite is bad news. Learn how to safely treat frozen feet.

by: Kelly Bastone

(Illustration by Andy Potts)
(Illustration by Andy Potts)

Pioneering Frostbite Treatment
One Minnesota doctor and his team have discovered a new treatment that reduces the need for amputations.

Survive This! Archive
From raging whitewater to rabid animal bites, learn how to make it out alive.

You're on a winter dayhike when an unexpected blizzard develops. Visibility drops to nil, and you're forced to spend a night out in frigid temps. By morning, the storm has passed, but the stabbing pain in your feet has given way to stony numbness.

Hike out to medical help immediately. If you suffer from frostbite–the formation of ice crystals between your skin cells–only one treatment will do: rapid thawing in a warm-water bath, administered by professionals. Don't attempt to thaw tissues yourself: Rubbing skin causes more cell damage, and exposing numb feet to a campfire can lead to serious burns. Until you reach help, it's actually crucial that your feet stay frozen. Once rewarmed, frostbitten areas become so painful and swollen that walking is impossible–and if thawed areas re-freeze, tissue death and amputation are all but certain. To keep feet from thawing as you walk out, adjust your layers so your body feels slightly cool. (Don't dress down so much that you risk hypothermia, of course.) Quickly improvise crutches if hiking is difficult. If you cannot keep feet completely frozen, remove socks or boot insoles to accomodate the swelling and continue walking out.

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Reader Rating: -


Nov 10, 2011


Nov 10, 2011

poor man. I saw a frost bite before! and its so poor. haha. okay byee.

Nov 10, 2011


Crystamile Mauiem
Nov 10, 2011

omJ!.: ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) meheeheehehehehe, ,

john baranowski
Oct 18, 2010

There are different degrees of frost bite, some not so severe are others. In not so severe frostbite there may be numbness of the toes that will sometimes last to up to six months and you may lose some toe nails.

Oct 07, 2010

on the issue of refreezing, it should probably be noted that frostbitten areas are much more susceptible to refreezing than normal tissue.

Jul 05, 2009

It's always dangerous to administer meds to anyone who's medical history is not known to you. It's good planning to have a log of medical histories on all who will be in attendance on your outting. In emergency type contingencies less is always best. Apply the 7 P's to your outdoor activities and all should be well.

Mar 19, 2009

There seems to be a general desire for more information:
There are four main stages of frostbite. The first stage is "frostnip" or superficial frostbite, which ultimately does not result in tissue loss. The affected area will turn from red to pale. Do not expose this area to windburn, as this might aggravate the condition. When the area becomes numb, this is first degree frostbite. Second degree, or partial thickness frostbite, can only be diagnosed during thawing, and is recognized by the formation if blisters. In third degree, or full-thickness frostbite, skin tissue will be purple or black, indicating tissue necrosis. As is stated in the article, thawing and refreezing of any frostbite can cause mummification and pretty much assures tissue death and possibly amputation. First, remove cold or wet items. Use loose dressings and splints (improvise) to transport the patient if necessary. If you are ABSOLUTELY sure that you can prevent refreezing, thawing should be performed in a warm water bath of 104 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Never use dry heat, like a fire, because frostbitten areas are extremely susceptible to burns. All thawing is extremely painful, so if the water is too cold, thawing will be unnecessarily drawn out in terms of time. Aspirin is useful for preventing clotting during this process, but it is also a risk to administer any medication the victim has never taken before. Also, the affected area should not touch the walls of the thawing bath.
That's the best I can do really. All of this information is from the protocol of an Emergency Medical Technician, and should help. The main idea is not to let it refreeze, as was stated in the article.

Mountain man
Mar 10, 2009

Don't let your feet get cold. or wet

Feb 26, 2009

That's It?
wow you deffinately need more details!

Feb 20, 2009

Or you could just man up and finish the trip.

Feb 15, 2009

That's It?

Feb 13, 2009

wow you deffinately need more details!


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