MetroWest Medical Center Offers Comprehensive Wound Care Services for Patients with FrostbiteFeb 28, 2023
Framingham, Mass. – The recent record-breaking low temperatures throughout New England are an important reminder of the danger that extreme cold can pose, especially when it comes to frostbite.
MetroWest Medical Center offers comprehensive wound care services, including hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy, if appropriate, for people suffering from frostbite. HBO therapy is an advanced treatment using a special chamber to deliver high concentrations of oxygen with increased atmospheric pressure to promote healing.
Frostbite typically occurs when the skin is exposed to extreme cold, causing the blood vessels to be restricted. As a result of the reduced blood flow, sufficient heat is not delivered to the tissues of the body, which can result in the formation of ice crystals. This can lead to potentially serious tissue damage and necrosis, which may require debilitating amputations of fingers, toes, or other affected extremities.
“Our team of talented medical providers is available to provide a full complement of wound care services for frostbite patients,” said Neisha Vanhorne, Program Director for MetroWest Medical Center Advanced Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Medicine Center. “Frostbite is a serious condition that can cause permanent damage to the body, so it is imperative to seek medical care if you see signs of frostbite on yourself or someone else. It’s important to know what these signs are ahead of time so you can act promptly, if needed.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following tips on how to recognize symptoms of frostbite and what to do if you suspect you have it:
If you notice redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin—frostbite may be beginning. Any of the following signs may point to frostbite:
- A white or grayish-yellow skin area
- Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
A person who has frostbite may not know they have it until someone else points it out because the frozen parts of their body are numb.
Don’t wait—take action! If a person shows signs of frostbite, but no signs of hypothermia and immediate medical care is not available, do the following:
- Get the person into a warm room as soon as possible.
- Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on feet or toes that show signs of frostbite—this increases the damage.
- Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
- Put the areas affected by frostbite in warm—not hot—water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).
- If warm water is not available, warm the affected area using body heat. For example, you can use the heat of an armpit to warm frostbitten fingers.
- Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can easily burn.
- Don’t substitute these steps for proper medical care. Frostbite should be checked by a health care provider. And remember, hypothermia is a medical emergency and immediate medical care is necessary.