Frostbite in Calgary

What To Do If You Have Frostbite

At Dalhousie Station Foot Clinic, your podiatrist in Calgary, we hope to not only treat our patients, but also help educate them on how to take control of their health. Part of that is explaining a bit about some common risks to your health, what you can do when they happen or, better yet, what you can do to prevent them and avoid having to go to the foot clinic at all.

One kind of injury that every Canadian should know about is frostbite. As a real medical condition, frostbite refers to whenever someone’s skin and the tissue underneath it are frozen—that is, actual ice crystals form in your skin and tissue. Unsurprisingly, your extremities such as your fingers and toes are at the most risk for frostbite. The injury often happens in conjunction with hypothermia, or when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Of course, frostbite is most common when you’re exposed to cold temperatures and wind for too long—particularly if you have exposed skin.

Canada is cold. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Did you know, however, that frostbite can occur at temperatures as high as -5°C? Or that if the combined temperature and wind chill is -27°C, frostbite can occur in less than thirty minutes? Although it’s a common exaggeration to claim you have frostbite when you’re just really cold, actual frostbite is no laughing matter.

What are the symptoms of frostbite?

Frostbite actually occurs in three stages, each with its own symptoms that you should know about.

Stage 1: Frostnip
Frostnip is the first stage of frostbite and won’t cause any permanent damage. You can tell when you’re developing frostnip because your skin will turn both pale and red in places, you’ll feel prickling or numbness, and you’ll feel pain when your rewarm your body. If you get back inside quickly and rewarm your extremities, there shouldn’t be any damage.

Stage 2: Superficial Frostbite
This is when ice crystals start forming in your skin and tissue. You can tell it’s happening when you start feeling warm again for no reason. It actually means that you’re losing all feeling in that area. When you rewarm the area that has superficial
frostbite, you’ll probably get blisters from the ice trapped in your skin returning to a liquid form. If you think you’ve had superficial frostbite, you should consult your local Calgary doctor or foot doctor to be sure no nerve or other damage has happened.

Stage 3: Severe Frostbite
Severe frostbite refers to when the skin and tissues has fully frozen. By this stage you won’t be able to feel anything, you won’t be able to move your joints, and the tissue willdie and turn black. If this starts happening you should seek emergency medical assistance as quickly as possible.

If you’re looking for a podiatrist in Calgary, contact our foot doctors at Dalhousie Station Foot Clinic. We can give you advice on how to protect your toes against a harsh Calgary winter.