Frostbite - Treatment
Frostbite is a potentially serious problem that requires emergency medical treatment. First aid involves replacing wet clothing with warm, dry clothing or blankets. A splint or padding can be used to protect the injured area. Observers should not attempt to warm the patient in the field. The re-warming procedure should take place under controlled conditions in the hospital.
The outcome of a frostbite injury cannot be predicted in the first few days. For that reason, the same treatment is used with all patients. Treatment involves re-warming of the affected area at a temperature of 104° to 108°F (40° to 42°C). The injury is treated with aloe vera and splinted, wrapped, and elevated.
Injections of tetanus vaccine and penicillin may be given. These injections protect the patient against infection. An anti-inflammatory drug, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, may also be given. In some cases, narcotics may be needed to treat the severe pain that occurs with deep frostbite.
In the most serious cases, frostbite may cause extensive tissue damage. Amputation (removal) of an arm, leg, hand, or foot may be necessary. A decision to take this action is usually delayed as long as possible to see if the damaged tissue will recover.
Alternative treatments of frostbite should not be attempted until the patient has received medical care. After that point, methods are available for shortening the recovery period. One such method is contrast hydrotherapy. In contrast hydrotherapy, a series of hot and cold water applications is used on the affected area.
Some homeopathic remedies suggested for frostbite recovery include Hypericum and Arnica (pronounced AHR-nih-kuh). Circulation may be improved by drinking hot ginger tea or taking small amounts of cayenne pepper.