The cold, not the altitude, is the cause of frostbite. When outdoors, especially on windy days for prolonged periods, exposed skin may suffer mild “frostnip” or the more dangerous “frostbite” without any sense of pain. The first sign of trouble is white skin, especially around the face and ears. Wise skiers check each other occasionally for the telltale warnings on cold, cold days.

To treat frostnip rewarm the skin by covering it with a warm hand, or blowing on it gently; then cover the exposed skin and head off immediately to a warm area. When the skin is fully rewarmed it may itch, but there will be no permanent damage. However, the affected area should be examined promptly by first-aid attendants at the ski area.

In frostbite, a deeper layer of skin actually freezes into ice crystals. The frozen skin is white and hard, but there’s still no pain. It’s imperative that the victim of frostbite get medical assistance as swiftly as possible. Never rub or massage the frozen skin, since this may tear the affected cells, causing permanent skin damage. Protect the frozen skin by covering it with cloth - never any ointment or heat - until proper medical help can be obtained.

Even under proper treatment, when frostbitten skin is rewarmed the tissues swell and the pain is brutal. The affected skin often becomes covered with blood-filled blisters, which can result in gangrene.

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