When the winter temperatures fall below 23 degrees F, exposed skin is susceptible to frostbite. In certain circumstances young children can suffer from frostbite even when the temperatures are above freezing.
Young children lose body heat in the skin more quickly than adults, leaving exposed or wet areas more quickly susceptible to frosting and frostbite than adults. High altitude, wet clothing and wind chills can start to freeze little ears, noses, cheeks, toes and fingers of a child even as the snow and ice are melting. As they play out of doors their fun makes them unwilling to leave the beautiful winter day for a warm up break indoors.
Red colored skin with a numb or tingly feeling can indicate that a child is suffering from frost nip, a condition that can be treated at home.
Frostbite Symptoms in Children
Pay close attention to the child’s skin when outside during the winter. If the skin is turning white and feels numb, it could mean that the child’s tissue has started to freeze and that the child is suffering from frostbite. These conditions need immediate attention, but the affected skin usually can recover completely.
Treatment for Frostbite in Children
To treat frostbite in children, remove all wet clothing and quickly replace them with warm, dry clothing. If the skin is white and waxy, call the doctor immediately. The doctor will likely suggest that the child be seen by a medical professional to make sure that further damage is prevented.
If the toes or feet have been affected by winter frostbite, don’t let the child walk. This could cause permanent damage.
Do not attempt to thaw the frozen skin out unless the child is in a warm environment. Refreezing will cause tissue damage. Never rub the affected area with snow.
Frostbite First Aid for Children
If professional medical care is not immediately available, first aid treatment for frostbite can be administered until help can be found.
Give the child a warm drink and take immediate steps to warm the skin with a bath or warm compresses. Do not apply heat or water that is warmer than 100 degrees F. Use warm blankets or towels if warm water is not available.
As the tissue starts to thaw, pain can occur. The child may complain of a burning sensation. That means that circulation is returning to the affected area. Blistering can occur, with nearby skin showing signs of swelling with purple, red or blue discoloration.
When the frostbitten area is completely thawed, the skin should look pink and the numbness should be gone. Wrap the affected area in gauze. Keep the child still so that the damaged tissue is as still as possible.
It’s important that a medical professional examine the child after frostbite to make sure that therapy is not needed to make a complete recovery. If blood vessels have been damaged, there is a chance that they will not recover. In some cases, gangrene could set in that could lead to amputation.
The Children’s Hospital