Blog# 83 Frostbite – What to Do in Addition to Seeking Medical Care
Recently, an acquaintance emailed me about treatment of what he called frostbite. He related the following: after standing outside in very cold weather at night for at least 20 – 30 minutes, his feet began to hurt and feel numb. He had eaten a large dinner and was not paying attention to his feet because of an interesting conversation with a friend. He hobbled to his car and then soaked his feet in warm water at home. Pain still prevented sleep and he prepared what he called a “healing tonic” drink, consisting of the following:
Fresh Ginger root
Fresh whole Lemon
Cayenne pepper powder
Chamomile tea bag
Peppermint tea bag
Rosehip and hibiscus tea bag
He also scooped out fresh aloe vera gel from leaves, mixed it with the inner part of banana peels, placed that paste between his toes, and even ate some food that he hoped might accelerate the healing process. This included oranges, kiwi, fresh spinach, and banana.
He sent me photographs of his toes, which appeared to be of a normal color, and asked me for further treatment suggestions as well as about how much longer he would have to suffer with the pain and disturbed sleep.
Of course, I did not respond to this type of request with a diagnosis or prescription. There is no way I could tell if this was frostbite for sure, and I also could not predict how long the pain would continue in his case. A patient has to come to my office for an examination. What I did tell him was to go to a hospital Emergency Room, or at least urgent care and see his primary care physician, since moderate or severe frost bite can result in permanent damage to skin, muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and even bones.
Fortunately, this man recovered fully in about 24 hours. He later informed me that since he did not have health insurance, he did not want to go to the hospital or urgent care.
There is much to discuss and learn regarding frostbite. First, in cold weather, like what we are currently facing, it is best to stay inside as much as possible. When that is not an option, it is essential to dress warmly, with layers of relatively loose-fitting clothing, especially on the extremities. Tight gloves, socks or boots can cut off circulation and make frostbite more likely. Secondly, when outside, it is best to move rather than to be stationary, since that way, the blood circulates better and injury from cold is less likely. Third, daily, during cold weather, it may be helpful to eat foods, teas, etc that will help prevent or delay frostbite. Some examples are rosehips tea, sage tea, fresh ginger tea, and cayenne pepper added to food or drink. These all will tend to warm the body, improve circulation and possibly prevent infection if frostbite occurs. Fourth, take care of your health in order to prevent diabetes, arthritis, and poor circulation, among other problems, all of which can lead more quickly than usual to frostbite. I realize that some people already have these illnesses. In that case, it is best to take extra good care of your health. Fifth, do not smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or use recreational drugs within several hours of being outside in the cold, since they will tend to slow blood circulation. And the list can extend indefinitely…
This month’s offer: Feel free to contact me with any questions about preventing frostbite. But, of course, if you are suffering from an injury from the cold, I would suggest you visit your primary care physician or even the ER, if the symptoms are very severe, such as hard, stiff fingers or toes, or blisters after some thawing has taken place.