Top tips for preventing frostbite

Running & Fitness / ZZBLOG POSTS
Top tips for preventing frostbite

Old man winter doesn’t have to be your arch enemy this season. Instead, you and him can buddy up, and with the right outdoor gear and frostbite knowledge, the snow and ice will be your wilderness adventure playground.

Frostbite – or if you want to get technical, congelatio – occurs when the temperatures plunge so low that blood flow becomes restricted in the body, leading to tissue damage. Most often, it will strike exposed areas and your extremities like your feet, nose and ears. Hands, even when in constant motion, are still susceptible to winter’s bite. Luckily, the Appalachian Mountain Club has put together the best ways to fend off frostbite.

Keeping frostbite at bay starts before you even walk out the door. Wear layered, loose-fitting cold weather clothing that won’t cut off your circulation, and make sure winter boots or crampons aren’t strapped on too tight. Your feet need all the blood they can get. Also, you may want to invest in insulated winter gloves before heading into the tundra, and your hands will thank you later.

Be Aware
As with most medical conditions, there will be plenty of warning signs that the winter weather might have you in its grip, ready to strike. Know how to spot the three stages of frostbite, and what to do if you find yourself with any of their symptoms. In the first stage, “frostnip,” your skin will become numb, soft and pale, and can eventually feel similar to a sunburn. You’ll know the more serious stage, “partial thickness,” has set in when your skin loses softness and blisters form. When “full thickness” sets in, your skin will be white and hard, and feel either numb, tingly or extremely painful.

If you suspect frostnip, keep the area covered with warmer skin, and get out of the cold. Rubbing the area to increase blood flow can actually cause worse tissue damage, and I hear rewarming while still outside is extremely painful.

But really, if you invest in the right extreme cold weather gear and remember to think, frostbite doesn’t have to be a problem this winter.

Chris Davis

Although Christopher Dodge Davis grew up wrangling the copperheads of the East Texas woods, he's now made Boston his new home, and is determined to conquer the peaks of the East. Since moving, he's enjoyed hiking any trail within a weekend's drive, bouldering in the New Hampshire woods and backpacking sections of the AT, the Long Trail and other must-do hikes. Armed with a degree in English, you'll often find him sitting atop a peak, pencil in hand, unabashedly trying to channel the likes of Thoreau and other long-winded New Englanders.