There are a number of frostbite symptoms that individuals should be aware of when they have been out in freezing temperatures and when they come indoors after exposures to cold temperatures.
In general, the signs of frostbite can be divided into two main classes of symptoms. These two types of frost bite symptoms are labeled as superficial or deep. For superficial frostbite, the skin will have a tingling sensation, may feel as if it is burning, will have various degrees of numbness, will feel cold, may itch, and have a white and possibly frozen appearance. The more severe frostbite is classified simply as deep frostbite. The symptoms in this case are complete loss of feeling in the affected skin parts, swelling of the skin, appearance of blisters that are blood filled, yellow or white looking skin that has a waxy look to it, and the skin is very hard to the touch. The skin eventually appears as if it is bruised and possibly black.
With rewarming of the skin, pain is experienced. The amount of pain can coincide with the amount of damage or severity of the frostbite. The pain may persist for weeks. The amount of tissue damage sometimes is only revealed after several days or weeks after the exposure.
Often the frostnip symptoms are classified in terms of more detailed stages or degrees as is the case for heat or chemical burns. There is no consistency in how these stages are defined or how many separate stages or degrees there are. Below are some examples.
At stage one the skin is white or yellow in appearance with a slight burning sensation usually being experienced by the frostbite sufferer. This is considered mild frostbite and reversible with no permanent skin or other tissue damage. The signs of frostbite at stage two include reddening and swelling of the skin and numbness. Blisters likely appear a short while after the exposure has occurred. The third stage or degree means hard waxy skin, tissue death, and irreversible damage.
The signs of frostbite classified as first degree include lack of sensation of the skin to any stimulus, waxy skin appearance, and a hard feeling to the skin instead of the normal soft and supple feel. The second degree frostbite symptom is the formation of blisters either with milky or clear fluid inside. These blisters normally appear about one day after the overexposure to the freezing temperatures. If the blisters are blood filled, then many consider this third degree frostbite. Finally, if the frostbite has penetrated deep into the skin structure thereby affecting nerves, muscle, and bone, then this is considered the fourth degree of frost bite. Tissue death and tissue loss accompanies this fourth degree or stage.
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