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Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Reminds Families To Be Safe During the Cold Winter Months

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh offers preventive medicine in the form of safety tips for families during the frigid winter months when injuries can easily occur. Although the winter season can be a fun time of year, there are many things parents of young children should be cautious of, including how to prevent frostbite and frostnip when temperatures drop.

Experts urge families to take extra precautions against the cold weather. Children’s Hospital’s Injury Prevention Web site, www.chp.edu, offers a wide variety of seasonal safety tips for children, parents, teachers and guardians. Safety tips are available for different reading levels and age groups.

Early frostbite is characterized by waxy, white and hard skin that feels numb and has a persistent burning sensation. In more severe cases, frostbitten skin will become blue and mottled or splotchy. An earlier form of frostbite called “frostnip” also can be a problem for children. It usually affects the ears, nose, cheeks, fingers and toes. If a child has frostnip, the affected area will be white and numb.

Here are a few tips:

Frostbite:

  • Children are at greater risk than adults because they lose heat from their skin faster.
  • Dress children in layers.
  • Bring children in at regular intervals and inspect fingers and noses for signs of frostnip or frostbite.
  • Do not go outside in very cold weather after a recent bath or shower.

Frostnip:

  • An earlier form of frostbite; frostnip can affect a child’s ears, nose, cheeks, fingers and toes. Affected areas will be white and numb.
  • To treat frostnip - submerge affected areas in warm water. Do not permit the child to control the temperature of the water.
  • Keep affected areas in warm water until they turn red.

Treating frostbite:

Severe frostbite requires immediate medical attention. If you suspect that your child has frostbite, remove cold and wet clothing. Dress the child in clothing that is loose, warm and dry, and take the child to a hospital.

Do Not:

  • Rub or bump the affected area.
  • Use direct heat, such as a heating pad or hair dryer, to warm the affected area.
  • Pop blisters that appear. Popping blisters on frostbitten skin can cause infection.

If you are not able to get a child with frostbite to a hospital right away, begin first aid:

  • Give child something warm to drink, and keep child hydrated.
  • Keep child warm with clothes and blankets.
  • Soak frostbitten area in warm water (between 101° and 104° F). If you don’t have a thermometer, dip your elbow in the water. If the water is too hot for your elbow, it’s too hot for the child. Maintain temperature of water by adding warm water if necessary.
  • Soak affected area until it becomes pink.
  • If the child’s face is frostbitten, use a soft washcloth. Soak the wash cloth in warm water and wring out any excess.
  • After the affected skin turns pink, dry the skin - gently but thoroughly - and wrap with clean gauze bandages.
  • If the toes or fingers are frostbitten, place gauze bandages or cotton balls between toes and fingers to permit these areas to dry. Thoroughly drying affected areas can prevent infection.
  • The child may have a burning sensation after warming.
  • The affected skin may blister, swell, become painful or turn blue, red or purple.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible for a thorough exam and additional treatment.
  • Avoid further exposure to the cold - especially of the affected areas.

Treating frostnip:

  • Get the child indoors.
  • Remove wet clothes.
  • Submerge affected areas in warm water (between 101º and 104º F). Do not permit the child to control the temperature of the water.
  • Keep affected areas in water until they turn red.

For a complete list of all winter prevention tips and other key information log on to Children’s Web site at www.chp.edu and click on the “Injury Prevention” button at the top of the page. Topics include sledding, skiing, snowboarding, frostbite and frostnip.

Contacts:
Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016, Marc.Lukasiak@chp.edu
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016, Melanie.Finnigan@chp.edu

Last Update
February 19, 2008
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Last Update
February 19, 2008
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