Expert warns of the dangers of various degrees of frostbite

Dec 16, 2022, 8:00 PM | Updated: Jan 5, 2023, 2:44 pm

Blisters on the feet of a lost hiker are pictured at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake C...

Blisters on the feet of a lost hiker are pictured at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. The hiker got lost on a hike in Millcreek Canyon on Jan. 2 and was found by search and rescue crews the next day. The hiker suffered from frostbite injuries. Photo credit: Jen Pilgreen/University of Utah Hospital.

SALT LAKE CITY — The below-freezing temperatures over the past few weeks have taken a toll on Utahns. An increasing number of individuals have suffered from frostbite, due to the cold weather.

Dr. Giavonni Lewis from the University of Utah Burn Center says frostbite can come in three degrees of severity.

“So, some of the things we actually kind of take for granted are the first signs of what we call frostnip or first degree-frostbite,” she said.

With first-degree frostbite, fingers can feel tingly, numb, painful and really cold, according to Lewis.  

Second- and third-degree frostbite

“Those are actually quite worse,” Lewis said. “And patients no longer are able to feel their fingers or their toes. And once they come back into a warm state, and they start warming back up, they actually start to develop blisters.”

She says the blisters are more consistent with the second stage, which is reversible. She says people who have experienced second-degree frostbite can recover from it but may experience problems afterward. 

Lewis says there is little that can be done about the third stage. 

“It’s almost irreversible,” she said. “It equates to you ultimately, potentially losing parts of your feet and toes.”

Tips to stay safe

“First thing is to get warm again and stay warm,” Lewis said. “If you are able to do that, then your risks really reduce dramatically.”

If you have experienced second or third-degree frostbite, Lewis says you should seek medical attention immediately.

She says there are things that can be done to reduce the severity of the third stage. However, it has to be early intervention. 

Mark Jones contributed to this article.

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Expert warns of the dangers of various degrees of frostbite