New Year…New Frostbite?

In Foot Facts by Alnoor Ladhani, Chiropodist

On New Year’s Eve, while millions brought in 2018 with cheers, champagne, or sleep, one Canadian woman brought in the New Year with frostbite. That December night saw -40 degrees Celsius with the wind chill.

Alina Corsone, of Ottawa, was on her way to a nightclub when she realized that she forgot her purse in an Uber. She resolved to wait for the driver to return with her belongings and she asked the bouncer of the nightclub if she could wait in the doorway instead of in the long line. He refused and suggested that she wait at a nearby McDonald’s for shelter.

Alina did not want to wait somewhere else and decided to wait outside of the nightclub instead; it took 40 minutes for the Uber driver to return and deliver her belongings to her. By then, the damage was done. Alina was wearing open-toed shoes and suffered extreme, biting frostbite. In under an hour, her night was ruined and feet severely injured.

With extreme cold dominating much of the winter so far, those in Public Health wants us to take precautions for frostbite. It can happen to anybody. Since we are in the deep of winter and the extreme cold comes and goes, it is good to know what the first signs of frostbite are and what we can do to prevent it.

Stages of Frostbite

The first sign is cold skin and a prickly feeling. This primary stage is called frostnip. There is no nerve damage or permanent effects in this phase, but it is imperative to seek the indoors as quickly as possible to warm your skin. If you don’t, numbness comes next. You know you’ve entered the second stage, superficial frostbite when your skin starts to change color. This means ice crystals have started to form in the tissue. If you try to treat the frostbite at this point with rewarming the skin, a blister may still appear in 2-3 days along with discoloration.

The third, and most severe, stage is deep frostbite. This affects all layers of the skin. Not only do you get all the symptoms listed above but some joints and muscles may no longer work as well. Large blisters are a certainty and the area turns hard and black. The tissue is dead.

Tips and Feet Assessments

To avoid this fate altogether, do these 2 simple things: pay attention to when the weather calls for extreme cold weather and dress accordingly. Step by Step clinic can help with the latter tip.

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Weeks later, Alina’s toes are still swollen and badly blistered. Make sure to take all the precautions you can this winter. If you have been outside this winter for an extended amount of time and are concerned you may have been exposed to frostbite, consider coming to get your feet assessed.