Winter adventurers find many rewards in winter explorations like fluffy white trails and a wide-open wilderness. There are also not-so-welcome reminders of the cold waiting to leave their mark.
Frostbite is a potentially dangerous condition that can affect you on the trail or at the campsite. So cover up, and learn how to recognize and treat it before your next winter trip.
Frostbite is damage to body tissue from exposure to extremely cold temperatures. When your skin is unprotected from the cold weather for a long period of time, blood moves from that area of the body to protect critical organs. You begin to see signs of frostbite after this happens.
As a winter hiker, you may have seen it before. If you haven't, it's not surprising; the signs are subtle and can be easily overlooked. So, how do you know if you or your fellow traveler has frostbite? Pay close attention to the following on a winter hike or camping trip:
- How You Feel: The affected area will have the pins-and-needles feeling and numbness. It may also ache or throb.
- How it Looks: The frostbitten patch will be hard and pale, and may have blisters.
- What Happens in Warm Weather: When the skin warms, the area will be red and extremely painful.
The most commonly affected areas include the nose, fingers and toes. The best way to prevent frostbite in the first place is to cover yourself completely, especially these vulnerable spots.