Frostbite And Chilblains

The tendency of the skin to get extremely cold, pale in color and complexion and numb from the resulting poor circulation due to extreme exposure to cold weather is known medically as frostbite. The extremities such as the toes and the ears and the fingers on the hands are the usual parts of the body that are the most easily affected during frostbite.

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The extremities on the face like the chin and the nose are also quite susceptible to frostbite. There is a lot of reddening of the skin and swelling in the areas that get frostbitten, and restoring warmth and massaging the area for better circulation is a slow and painful process.

Susceptibility to unintentionally caused injuries or accidents is increased on the areas that are frostbitten as they become extremely numb and lose all their sensitiveness to pressure or pain. Injuries can be caused quite accidentally through even the acts of vigorous rubbing and massaging, which can also come about through the application of too much heat, a slow and gentle massage or rubbing action must be maintained with the heat being supplied by some other warm area of the body, for example the arm pits and other cocooned and warm areas.

Massaging to increase and restore the circulation should utilize only warm water, as hot water may cause scalding without the person not being aware of it. Exposure to cold and freezing weather for long periods of time leads to chilblains. Red and itchy areas become noticeable on the skin, that was exposed, usually one or two days later; these red and itchy regions of the body have the potential to develop into very painful blisters, which increase the discomfort felt.

The death of tissue in the case of deeper skin layers being affected, may lead to serious complications like gangrene setting in on the affected parts. The skin has an increased sensitivity to cold or heat after being exposed for the first time.

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The other physical effects of frostbite include poor circulation in the affected area, where some of the blood vessels may be damaged and there could even be tissue damage in most cases of over exposure to cold. Tight clothing and ill fitting shoes increase the chances of frostbite occurring in the areas where circulation becomes inhibited. Other factors that may increase the chances of being frost bitten include allowing one self to become wet or wearing damp clothing in cold weather.

The most susceptible people to the bad effects of frostbites include children and the elderly, and heavy drinkers and people who smoke as substances like alcohol and nicotine present in tobacco restrict circulation in the body and may permit frostbite to take place on the body.

Warming the body up is essential and this can be achieved by generating heat in the body through constant motion, this also keeps circulation going in the fingers and toes, and therefore the extremities may become much more susceptible to the cold in people who lie still as the circulation slows down and heat is lost from the body into the surrounding environment. Different factors like complete and utter fatigue, dehydration and hunger may impede the body's ability to deal with the cold and thus contribute to the onset of frostbites.

Damage to the tissues from the effects of the cold result in chilblains and this condition is quite similar to frostbite in this respect. Subjecting any part of the body to the ravages of cold weather for extended lengths of time can bring on both these conditions. Similar to frostbite, the extremities and body parts with minimal circulatory movements and those parts suffering the effects of the cold, increase the chances of chilblains. Ill-fitting and uncomfortable shoes or the use of thin socks and stockings is a common problem and can further complicate matters.

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Supplements and herbs

Several tests have shown that the best protection to exposure to cold weather is afforded by the vitamin C. The speed at which tissues heal and an anti-inflammatory action are other things that the vitamin C contributes to the recovery process. A warm flush and the bolstering of the circulatory system are effectively promoted by the vitamin niacin in people recovering from the effects of cold weather.

Using some herbal remedies and herb based medications can speed the healing process in conditions brought on by frostbite and an over exposure to the cold weather.

In the treatment and healing of skin that has been damaged through frostbite, effective use has been made of aloe vera . The recovery and rebuilding of damaged connective tissue can be achieved through the consumption of tea made form the horsetail herb. Dose should be about a tsp. of the herb, mixed with a cup of boiling water, taken thrice a day.

The speed and recovery of the tissues is also aided actively by drinking rose hip tea, which has a lot of vitamin C in it. Infusions made from the horsetail herb, the bark of the oak tree, horse chestnut or if unavailable tormentil can be added to the bath water to promote the rate of healing and as a topical measure.

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Additional things you may do

Moistened wraps which have been warmed, can be used for first-degree frostbite burns especially in cases where the skin is also swollen and the coloring of the skin changes from white to red. A rub and a massage can be gently given to the affected areas of the skin using onion juice or camphor oil as a further topical measure.

Since the severity of tissue damage in second- and third-degree frostbite caused conditions are extremely serious and the damage may include blisters, gangrene or deteriorating tissue, a doctor must immediately be availed of as affected limbs can be so damaged that amputation may be the only option if there is any delay in consulting the doctor. Shoes should be comfortable and loose especially the ones that are likely to be used in cold weather.

Damp clothing should never be worn and one should avoid tight shoes or stockings in all circumstances as they hamper circulation. In all cases since any circulatory problems present in a person especially in the extremities can greatly increase the chances of frostbites, such people should take special care about long and over exposure to damp weather and to cold wind and drafts in all circumstances.

Usual dosage

Niacin, 500 mg three times daily.

Vitamin C, with bioflavonoids, 1,000-3,000 mg.

Other beneficial herbs


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