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Frostbite and Your Feet

Frostbite is a real concern for those living in parts of the country that experience harsh winter weather like the greater Chicago area. How much do you know about what causes frostbite, its symptoms, and what you should do if your feet get dangerously cold?

What is Frostbite?

Frostbite is a condition that occurs in the body in extreme cold. Every cell in your body contains water molecules. If it’s cold enough outside for water to freeze, ice crystals can form in your body’s soft tissues and cell death can occur. Because your feet, hands, nose, and ears are far from the heart and already prone to chill, these parts of the body are most vulnerable to frostbite.

You can reduce your risk of frostbite by limiting exposure to cold. Try to limit the length of time that you spend outdoors. For example, shovel your driveway in several short excursions, rather than one long one. If you enjoy winter sports like skiing, invest in the best gear you can afford to keep you comfortable and safe. Be sure to keep skin covered with gloves, scarves, and, of course, wool socks and insulated waterproof boots. Swap these items out if they get wet.

How to Spot the Signs of Frostbite

It’s common for exposure to cold to irritate the skin and make it uncomfortable. That’s nature’s way of telling you it’s time to warm up. The first stage of frostbite is called frostnip. At this point, things will begin to hurt, and your toes may tingle, but no serious tissue damage has yet occurred. Your toes will feel cold, and they will appear reddish in color. At the next stage, the redness will give way to a pale, yellow color. Your toes will probably feel numb. At the most severe stage of frostbite, skin will feel waxy and there will be no sensation. Tissue death is approaching.

What to Do About Frostbite

If your feet become cold when you’re outside, come in as soon as possible. Remove your socks and shoes and soak feet in warm (not hot!) water. Do not vigorously rub or massage them or try to warm the tissue with a hair dryer. Remember, you aren’t perceiving sensation as you should be. It’s easy to burn yourself. If feet don’t look or feel right, call your podiatrist for help.

If you’re worried about frostbite or you have another concern about the health and wellness of your feet, ankles, or lower leg, call the friendly My Chicago Foot Expert staff at (773) 561-8100 or click here to schedule an appointment with Cook County podiatrist  Stavros O. Alexopoulos, DPM in our modern, comfortable Ravenswood office today.

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