I was riding a snow mobile with my boyfriend when the first snow fell. I knew it was cold outside but we were all dressed very well. When I came home my cheeks were very red and hurting. Now some of the skin is peeling and it is still red. What is happening and what can I do to make it better?



shoveling-snow.jpgIt sounds like you may have localized frostbite. If Jack Frost starts nipping at your nose, it’s time to take shelter.

While there is nothing necessarily wrong with a rosy glow, frostbitten skin is damaged skin that can be painful and, in very rare cases, even fatal. Frostbite can result in transient or permanent injury to the skin. If frostbite is severe enough, sections of skin or even fat, muscle and bone can die.

This can lead to infections that, left untreated, can kill. When skin is exposed to the cold, blood vessels in the skin constrict, decreasing blood flow to the skin. The fluid in and around skin cells develops ice crystals, causing frostbite. This halts normal cell functions and the cells die. Depending on the severity of the frostbite, the skin can move through different phases. It can have redness, blisters, pain or no pain, scabbing, necrosis (black, dead skin), ulceration and auto-amputation (part of the skin can fall off).

The areas of the body most prone to frostbite are the fingers, toes, hands, feet, nose, ears and cheeks. The signs and symptoms of frostbite vary, but they can include pain, numbness, blistering, itching, swelling and changes in skin color (white, gray or yellow tones.)

Frostbitten skin should be protected from further trauma, so rubbing with snow or even a warm cloth should be avoided. People should also make sure that the rewarmed area be kept warm and use pain medications if necessary.

People who work outdoors or participate in outdoor sports or recreational activities during cold temperatures and wind are particularly susceptible to effects from cold dry air. During sports activities most of the body can be quite warm but some parts, such as fingers, toes, ears, nose and cheeks, can sustain frostbites.

The only real protection is to keep these body parts warm and dry.

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