New Delhi. Frostbite is a kind of injury caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. At first your skin becomes very cold and red, then numb, hard and pale. Frostbite is most common on the fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. Exposed skin in cold, windy weather is most vulnerable to frostbite. But frostbite can also occur on skin covered by gloves or other clothing.

Frost nip, the first stage of frostbite, doesn’t cause permanent skin damage. You can treat very mild frostbite with first-aid measures, including re-warming your skin. All other frostbite requires medical attention because it can damage skin, tissues, muscle and bones. Possible complications of severe frostbite include infection and nerve damage.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Signs and symptoms of frostbite include:

· At first, cold skin and a prickling feeling
· Numbness
· Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin
· Hard or waxy-looking skin
· Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness
· Blistering after re-warming, in severe cases

Frostbite is most common on the fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. Because of skin numbness, you may not realize you have frostbite until someone else points it out.

When to see a doctor

Seek medical attention for frostbite if you experience:

· Signs and symptoms of superficial or deep frostbite — such as white or pale skin, numbness, or blisters
· Increased pain, swelling, redness or discharge in the area that was frostbitten
· Fever
· New, unexplained symptoms
Get emergency medical help if you suspect hypothermia, a condition in which your body loses heat faster than it can be produced. Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include:

· Intense shivering
· Slurred speech
· Drowsiness and loss of coordination

CAUSES
Frostbite occurs when skin and underlying tissues freeze. The most common cause of frostbite is exposure to cold-weather conditions. But it can also be caused by direct contact with ice, freezing metals or very cold liquids.

RISK FACTORS

The following factors increase the risk of frostbite:

· Medical conditions that affect your ability to feel or respond to cold, such as dehydration, exhaustion, diabetes and poor blood flow in your limbs
· Alcohol or drug abuse
· Smoking
· Fear, panic or mental illness, if it inhibits good judgment or hampers your ability to respond to cold
· Previous frostbite or cold injury
· Being an infant or older adult, both of whom may have a harder time producing and retaining body heat
· Being at high altitude, which reduces the oxygen supply to your skin

Complications of frostbite include:

· Increased sensitivity to cold
· Increased risk of developing frostbite again
· Long-term numbness in the affected area
· Changes in the cartilage between the joints (frostbite arthritis)
· Growth defects in children, if frostbite damages a bone’s growth plate
· Infection
· Tetanus
· Gangrene — decay and death of tissue resulting from an interruption of blood flow to the affected area — which can result in amputation

Cold exposure that’s severe enough to cause frostbite also can cause hypothermia. When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs don’t work correctly. Left untreated, hypothermia eventually leads to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and to death.

According to Dr. Pankaj Aggarwal, Senior Homeopathy Physician at Agrawal Homeo Clinic says, “In all stages homoeopathic treatment can cure it well. Anyone suffering with it must seek homoeopathic treatment for the recovery of present condition and finally cure it once for all. Every homoeopathic physician examines such cases well and tries to find out the constitutional defect and find his suitable medicine to relieve and cure.”

Dr. Aggarwal also recommends some most preferred remedies one can intake during suffering from the plight of frostbite. They are –

· Agaricus Muscarius

· Carbo Vegetabilis

· Nux moschata

· Zincum metallicum

· Silica terra

CARE TIPS

1. Seek Medical Care Promptly

· See a doctor or go to a hospital emergency room.
2. Restore Warmth

Until you can see a doctor:

· Get the person to a warm place and remove any wet clothing.
· Unless absolutely necessary, the person should not walk on frostbitten toes or feet.
· Do not re-warm the skin until you can keep it warm. Warming and then re-exposing the frostbitten area to cold air can cause worse damage.
· Gently warm the area in warm water (not hot) or with wet heat until the skin appears red and warm.
· If no water is nearby, breathe on the area through cupped hands and hold it next to your body.
· Do not use direct heat from heating pads, radiator, or fires.
· Do not rub the skin or break blisters.
3. Bandage the Area

· Loosely apply dry, sterile dressings.
· Put gauze or clean cotton balls between fingers or toes to keep them separated.
4. Follow Up

Once you get medical care, the next steps depend on the particular case.

· At the hospital, a doctor will re-warm the area.
· The doctor may administer medicine for pain or intravenous fluids if the person is dehydrated.
· The doctor may also give a tetanus vaccine.
· The person may be hospitalized for a few days.
This winter look for any such symptoms, if any, and then consult your homoeopathic doctor to be well once for all.
The writer is Dr. Pankaj Aggarwal – Senior Homeopathy Physician at Agrawal Homeo Clinic, Delhi.