People In Kansas City may be at risk of frost bite with subzero temperatures there is cold….and then there is subzero cold.  The current weather is SUBZERO with highs only the teens and low -5 and below!  In Kansas City, we are used to Mother Nature always having something in store for us, but this year is an exception.

When you think about frostbite, you usually think of people trekking across the South Pole.  However, it’s actually more common than you think and can happen even here in Kansas City.   What makes it a serious issue is it doesn’t take being outside long for it to take place.   Exposure time varies, but can happen in just a few hours.  The lower the wind chills, the more susceptible you become.

What is frostbite?  Basically it is frozen skin.  It typically starts in the hands, feet, nose and ears.  There are three stages to frostbite: frostnip, mild frostbite, and severe frostbite.  With frostnip, it occurs with exposure to cold and windy conditions, and the most common symptom is loss of sensation to cold extremities. Severe third and fourth degree frostbite often affects all the deep tissues, in extreme cases can lead to limb amputation.

Who gets frost bite?  We often see it with hikers and skiers, but it can even be seen easily in immune-comprised people, often times elderly, and people with diabetes or circulation problems.

How can you prevent frost bite?  First, be sure you have the appropriate cold weather gear like thermal socks and snow boots.  Second, pass on the alcohol before going into freezing temperatures.  Alcohol can cause neuropathy, and dilates blood vessels, which in turn causes the body to lose heat faster.  Third, if your feet are freezing, get inside quickly!

With mild frostnip and frostbite findings, gradual warming can often treat the condition.  Gradual warming with the use of lots of warm blankets is key!  Keeping your core warm in cold weather is easy, but we often forget to focus on the toes and fingers.  Your instinct may be to jump into a hot shower; however, the sudden hot water can aggravate the condition.

So this winter, stay warm and safe, while enjoying the outdoors!  If you feel you are suffering from frostbite, or a circulatory condition to your feet and toes, come see Dr. Mark Green and Dr. Stephanie Jameson at Kansas City Foot & Ankle.  As experts in foot and ankle care, we can assess if your time outside caused any long-term tissue damage.