Frostnip is defined as a superficial, nonfreezing cold injury of exposed skin. Ice crystals do not form within the tissue, and after treatment, there is no long term damage. Frostnip areas will be pale in color, cold to the touch, and numb to sensations.
The pale skin and numbness of a frostnip area will quickly resolve after it is protected or removed from the environment. This can be achieved by adding additional insulation, going inside a hut or tent, or adding chemical heat packs (not directly in contact with skin).
But remember, if the conditions are right for frostnip, then they are right for frostbite. Frostnip may proceed frostbite, so all preventive measures should be taken. Prevention for frostnip is the same as prevention for frostbite. Prevention is better than treatment. Learn all about how to prevent frostnip and frostbite here in this post.
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Now, frostbite is the actual freezing of the skin and underlying tissue, which causes damage that can lead to tissue death and maybe amputation. Ice crystals literally form within the body tissue, irreversibly destroying cells. Frostbite does not appear as black or purple lesions on the skin, or at least not at first. Frozen flesh will be pale and stiff, and there may be a few blisters. It’s after thawing when the frostbite areas will turn red or purple. Black is a sign of tissue death. It is not unlike a burn.
It’s also extremely painful, and recovery or amputation depends on the degree of frostbite damage. Read this post to learn more about the classifications of frostbite.
Unlike frostnip, treatment for frostbite is a bit tricky. It greatly depends on where you are, the conditions, and the resources available to you. It is not a simple as rubbing your hands together to warm them up. In fact, you should never rub a frostbite area. Here, we cover how care for frostbite and when to thaw frostbite if you are in the wilderness far from help.
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