People who head out in winter ought to have a good experience of frostbite. It’s essential to be aware of the risks of frostbite whether or not you are practicing bushcraft and survival techniques or you are out for winter camping, snow machining, skiing, snow-shoeing, hunting, ice fishing.
Sometimes hypothermia is one of the biggest risks in the great outdoors but when the mercury properly drops, possibility of frostbite increases noticeably. Avoidance is obviously the primary goal and this has much to do with managing yourself and your clothing. But a knowledge of freezing cold injuries should form an element of the data with which you inform your wilderness activities. Here we take a look at what a freezing cold injury is and how to deal with it.
If you suffer with a freezing cold injury, fundamentally you have frozen flesh. This is also known as frostbite.
Frostbite is mostly a localised injury. Frostbite can be categorised as either superficial or deep. Superficial frostbite is constrained to the skin and the tissue just under the skin. The 1st evidence of this are commonly related as a stinging, pricking pain and the initial signs are a pale area of skin, looking rather wax-like, like a candle. Frostbite is most typical in the nose, cheeks, ears, hands and feet.
The priority in treating superficial frostbite is to stop it progressing into being a deep injury. Initial treatment in the field should be re-warming with body-heat from a warm part of the body. Armpits are ideal. Do not use external heat such as a fire. If it’s your own hands that need re-warming, you can begin by placing your hands in your own armpits.
The downside of warming your hands in this fashion is that opening your clothing layers and placing cold hands on your skin will only cause more heat loss from your body. Instead, if you’ve a friend with you, you should re-warm you hands on your buddy’s skin. You should put more garments on, have warm drinks and try to increase your activity rate to generate some body heat internally.
If it is your feet that need re-warming, then you must re-warm them on your mate. As with hands, contact should be skin-to-skin. This will have a big cooling effect on your pal! If there are more than a couple of you in the group, the others in your group should take it in turns to re-warm your feet.
If, after 30 minutes of trying at re-warming, the area is still pale, waxy and numb, then the frostbite should be treated as deep instead of superficial. Deep frostbite casualties should be taken out to be treated by medical professionals. As blisters appear after the flesh has been thawed (generally within 6-12 hours), do not burst them.
Paul Kirtley teaches bushcraft and survival. Paul is deeply enthused by nature, wilderness, remote travel and the abilities required to stay safe. This is something that comes across extremely clearly during his bushcraft courses.