When you have a frostbite you will feel symptoms like:
- Skin of the affected area turning paler.
- Skin hardening.
- Feeling pain, burning sensation, or tingling.
- The affected area or the entire body turning from red to purple.
- Slurred speech
- Memory loss
The first thing that you should do is get out of the cold and seek shelter at a warm place. Try to find one immediately. If, however, you cannot find immediate shelter, then at least find a place that will protect you from the wind. This will help from further damage.
Do Not Rub
Contrary to popular belief, rubbing the frostbitten area with snow is actually harmful. Rubbing of any kind, especially with snow is dangerous because it does not help in raising the temperature of the skin but further traumatizes it.
Stay at One Place
Once you find a warm place, do not leave it. Stay where you are. If it is your toes that are frostbitten, then it is dangerous to walk or hit them. Similarly, avoid applying any sort of pressure to the affected skin. If you cannot avoid leaving the place and there are chances that it will refreeze, then make sure that you do not thaw it at all. Refreezing will cause the tissue further damage which is worse than the frostbite.
Remove all the clothes that are covering the frost bitten area. After warming the skin sufficiently, cover it with cotton clothes that are loosely fitted or use cloth bandages.
Cover The Ears
Covering the ears if only by hand, will give you the much-needed protection and instantly warm you up.
Use Warm Water
The immediate first aid would be to immerse the affected area in warm water. Make sure that the water is warm and not hot. Hot water will harm the skin further. The water used for the frostbite treatment should be about 100 degrees or 10 degrees above body temperature. If, however, there is no water available, then try and maintain skin to skin contact with another person or animal.
Avoid the Fire Place
The heat that is generated by a fire place is dry and intense heat. This heat will not help you, but will, instead, burn the frostbitten area. This is because, the nerve endings do not send a signal to the brain to tell you that the skin is in danger of being burned.
Drink Water and Sugar Drinks
Have water that is warm and has high sugar content. Drinking water will increase the blood's volume, thereby preventing a frostbite. Other than water, one can also have hot cider, herbal teas, and broth. Drink something before you leave the shelter area and carry some with you to help you stay warm.
Avoid Alcohol and Smoking
Even though alcohol warms up your insides, it will constrict the blood flow and therefore there will be major heat loss. It also reduces shivering, which is the body's mechanism of making you stay warm. But never have drinks with caffeine in them. Similarly, smoking will stop the heat of the hands and restrict the body from warming itself (which is the most important thing in a frostbite).
Raise the Area and Medication
Keep the area of the frostbite raised for the blood to flow to it and take a painkiller for relief.