The Burn Center atRhode Island HospitalAdult: 401-444-5471Pediatric: 401-553-8314
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Frostbite is damage to the skin caused by extreme cold; an hour of exposure at 20 degrees Fahrenheit is all it takes. Even colder temperatures, or exacerbating factors such as moisture or wind, will increase the likelihood of frostbite setting in.
At Rhode Island Hospital's Burn Center, we use specific drug treatments to help save living tissue after exposure to extreme cold.
"What we do is give people a very powerful vaso-thrombolytic drug, which will dissolve developing clots," says David Harrington, MD, director of the Rhode Island Burn Center. "With this drug, we can prevent progression of disease. Bloody blisters equal loss of tissue; this thrombolytic allows us to save 80 percent of tissue that would have otherwise been lost."
Common signs of frostbite include:
There are three degrees of frostbite, similar to a hot burn scale: first degree, signified by irritation and redness; second degree, which results in clear, painful blisters; and third degree, the most severe, in which bloody blisters eventually result in black, dead tissue.
Although frostbite can affect anyone who is out in cold conditions, people with poor circulation or alcoholism are much more likely to develop injuries.
First Aid for Frostbite
If you or someone you know believes they may have frostbite, use the following steps to reduce the damage it can cause:
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