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Facts about frostbite

The weather is getting cooler, and for many workers, that means changing up their wardrobe. If your occupation has you working outside after temperatures drop below freezing, staying ahead of frostbite is important, because even mild cases can sideline you for days. Advanced cases can be life threatening, to say nothing of their impact on your ability to earn a livelihood. Here's what you need to know about frostbite before heading out to work this winter.

Prevention is the best medicine

The best way to deal with frostbite is to prevent it, which means knowing how to properly insulate yourself from the cold. That mostly means dressing in multiple layers, but there are some finer points to it. Here is what the Minnesota Safety Council recommends:

  • Staying dry is as important as staying warm, so the ability to lose and quickly replace wet layers is more important than having a few super-thick insulating layers.
  • Polypropylene long johns wick water away from the body, promoting warmth and dryness.
  • Cover as much skin as possible by using hats, gloves, scarfs, and anything else that helps keep your skin from direct exposure.
  • Wear extra socks and boots.

If you can't prevent frostbite from setting in, and sometimes you can't because of a sudden turn in the weather, then the next important step is treatment.

Treating frostbite symptoms

Frostbite happens when ice crystals form in the body's soft tissues due to extremely cold temperatures. It can cause the skin to look pale and waxy or take on other discoloration, and it requires immediate attention. For superficial cases, it is important to get the affected parties indoors as quickly as possible and remove restrictive clothing that impedes proper circulation.

Regardless of the severity of the case, it is a good idea to seek medical attention. If you are more than an hour away from the nearest medical supervision, though, it is okay to treat mild cases by placing the affected body part in warm water. Care should be taken to avoid shock by using water that is only mildly warm. For severe cases of frostbite, seek medical attention immediately.

Frostbite and workplace injuries

Work-induced frostbite is a serious injury, and if it happens in the course of your daily duties on the job, it might entitle you to compensation for medical expenses and lost wages. If you have questions about your eligibility or about whether the circumstances of your frostbite injury count as work-related, it is a good idea to talk to an attorney about your situation.

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