Bitten by the frost
37 people visited Minsk emergency hospital with chill injuries
Winter does not forgive levity. For absence of warm clothes, hats, scarves or gloves, for wearing tight shoes one might be punished with colds, injuries, hypothermia and frostbites. The signs of the latter, I daresay, are familiar to everyone. To prevent frostbite, some only need to get warm, while others must see a doctor. Annually, thousands of Belarusians suffer from cold injuries. From the beginning of the year, nearly forty people addressed the capital’s emergency hospital with frostbites.
50-year-old Ivan from Minsk has been staying for a week at the emergency hospital burns department. “After work I dropped to my friend’s place, he had birthday. We drank a little and I went home. Outside I sat down on a bench to smoke a cigarette and… I don’t remember anything else. I woke up because someone was shaking me by the shoulder.”
Ivan is looking at his bandaged hands during our conversation. It seems that he still cannot believe that his fingers can be amputated.
“This patient was taken to our hospital with general hypothermia and 3th and 4th degree hand frostbite. At this stage all the fingers are severely injured. The patient was lucky to be taken directly to our hospital. If he had spent another couple of hours in the cold, he could have lost his fingers,” says Vladimir Leshchenko, head of the burns department.
Most people who get frostbite are adult males. Unfortunately, almost half of them have their hands and feet frostbitten in the state of alcohol intoxication. “As alcohol depresses the thermoregulation centre, heat transfer in a human organism intensifies and vasospasm begins. Many do not even realize how severely their tissues freeze. Deep frostbites do not hurt. The skin turns white and indolent. Painful blisters appear later, after frozen extremities are warmed,” Vladimir Leshchenko explains.
According to the doctor, it is easier to treat patients who come to hospital directly after prolonged cold exposure than those who are taken to hospital from homes. Why? Because at home people tend to warm themselves using warm or hot objects, which is absolutely unacceptable.
The length of rehabilitation period depends on the severity of an injury. Patients with 1st degree frostbite can expect their blood flow restored within a few hours, recovery of more severely injured people might take up to two weeks.
Everyone is susceptible to frostbites, but people suffering from chronic vascular disease, varicose veins, atherosclerosis and diabetes are most commonly affected.
“If you observe the signs of frostbite, you should immediately see a doctor as you will need specialized care at the National Burns Centre. If one appeals to a medical institution timely, his or her frostbitten hands and feet can fully recover even in case of a 4-degree chill injury,” says Vladimir Leshchenko.
What to do if you find yourself in the condition of frostbite? Call an ambulance and do not rub any parts of your body with snow because wet skin quickly becomes colder thus accelerating the process of chilling. Finding a warm place and keeping your hands under your clothing is a better idea. All sorts of creams and healing waxes or oils are not recommended.