Kids love playing outside in the snow, but colder temperatures can make parents nervous about the safety of their children. One cause of such anxiety is frostbite.
Because children have thin skin, they can develop frostbite quicker than adults. Unfortunately, kids also aren’t always diligent in listening to their body’s signals saying to stop playing and go inside. For that reason, you may find it helpful to know the symptoms of frostbite and how to treat it if your child stays outside a little too long on a freezing day.
What is Frostbite?
Frostbite is a condition that results in extremely cold tissue. It manifests itself visually through a white or grayish appearance in the skin during early stages, followed by a blackening in more advanced stages when skin tissue begins to die.
Symptoms of Frostbite
To stop frostbite in its tracks, make sure that you and your child are checking for the following symptoms:
- Skin that feels overly cold
- Skin that appears to be white or gray
- Numb or prickly feeling
Pay special attention to cheeks, ears, fingers and the tip of the nose, as these are common places to get frostbite.
What to do if your Child has Frostbite
If your child has frostbite, use wet heat to start rewarming the frostbitten area immediately. If the area is submergible, keep it under warm (not hot) water until a pink flush returns to the skin. This can take as long as 20 to 30 minutes. If the area cannot be kept under water, rewarm the affected area with a wet cloth.
Once you have started rewarming the skin, call your pediatrician for further advice or instruction.
It is important to use wet heat only. Frostbitten skin can burn very easily, so dry heat, like that from a space heater or heat lamp, can be dangerous.
How to Prevent Frostbite
You can help protect your child’s skin by making sure that he or she is appropriately dressed for the weather. When the temperature and wind chill are low, cover as much skin as possible using coats, gloves, hats, scarves, etc. or keep your child’s activities inside.
If you are traveling to an area with a high altitude, keep in mind that your family is more susceptible to frostbite than usual, as there is a reduced amount of oxygen reaching the skin.
Frostbite is a dangerous problem that can occur with kids because their skin is very thin and so it can happen quickly.
Frostbite occurs, most commonly, on the tip of the nose, the ears, cheeks and fingers.
If the skin becomes frostbit you'll sometimes see a gray or white appearance to the skin.
What should I do if my child has frostbite?
If you're concerned that your child has skin that has become frostbitten, you should definitely call your pediatrician, but we would want you to start the rewarming process at home as soon as possible.
Rapidly rewarming the skin with warm heat is the best treatment to do for frostbitten skin.
If it's an area that can be immersed in water, you want to place that area in warm water or with warm washcloths until you notice a pink flush developing back into the skin.
That can sometimes take 20 to 30 minutes to occur.
You should not use dry heat, such as a space heater or electric heat lamp to rewarm it.
The reason for this is that frostbitten skin is more easily burned. That is why you always want to use wet heat.
How can frostbite be prevented?
The best way to prevent skin from becoming frost bit is to have it appropriately dressed for the conditions.
If the wind chills are very low, the best thing is to not take kids outside.
If you do have to go outside, you must make sure your child is appropriately dressed with a hat, mittens and other winter garments to prevent their skin from being exposed to the wind.