HealthZette

Does Your Child Have Frostbite? Know the Telltale Signs

Serious medical condition affects the skin and underlying tissues — here's what parents must know, especially now

When old man winter comes to town, it’s important to make sure you and your family are ready for more than just a heavy snowfall.

We recently got this emailed question from a concerned parent: “My kids wait about 10-15 minutes for their school bus every morning. Should I be worried that they could get frostbite while they wait?”

Frostbite is a serious medical condition that occurs when the skin and underlying tissues literally freeze.

Since kids lose more heat from their skin than adults, they are at an increased risk for developing the condition. The most common cause of frostbite is exposure to freezing temperatures and wind chills below zero.

According to the National Weather Service’s windchill chart, if the temperature is -15 degrees out with a 20 mph wind, the temperature will feel like -42 degrees, and your child could get frostbite within 10 minutes.

Frostbite typically affects smaller, more exposed body parts such as the nose, earlobes, fingers, hands and toes.

Related: Let ‘Em Play Outside Already!

Signs and symptoms parents should look out for include:

  • a change in skin color — usually to a red, white or pale grayish-yellow color
  • a prickly and slightly painful sensation
  • hard or waxy-looking skin
  • numbness
  • a cold or burning feeling
  • blistering, in severe cases

If you ever suspect your child has frostbite, get him or her indoors and bathe the affected area in lukewarm water — not hot water. If the symptoms worsen, seek medical help immediately.

Here are some helpful tips to keep you and your family safe in cold temperatures:

  • Stay updated on the weather forecast and windchill readings.
  • Dress in layers and wear windproof and waterproof outer garments.
  • Cover your head with a hat that goes over your ears and wear mittens rather than gloves.

And don’t forget to limit your time outside and change out of any wet clothes or shoes as soon as you or your child comes back indoors.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel’s senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. This Fox News piece is used by permission; it also appeared at AskDrManny.com. 

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