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Frostbite treatment, diagnosis & prescriptions

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Can I talk to a doctor on Maple about frostbite?

Yes, you can. The healthcare practitioner will want to do a physical exam and discuss your symptoms or signs of frostbite before offering a diagnosis for frostbite.

If your frostbite symptoms are severe, the healthcare practitioner may suggest additional testing to check for damage to bones or muscles. The healthcare practitioner will also likely suggest immediate frostbite treatments to help prevent further damage to the affected area.

Can I get a prescription on Maple?

Yes, you can. Physicians on Maple can prescribe frostbite medications online during your consultation. Once you accept a frostbite prescription, you’ll have the option to pick it up from any pharmacy conveniently located to you or to have it delivered right to your door at no additional cost.

You can visit our How it Works page to learn more.

What is frostbite?

Frostbite is a condition that occurs when skin is exposed to extreme cold temperatures or for a prolonged period of time.

In its early stages, skin and tissues beneath the skin freeze. In severe cases, blood vessels, nerves and muscles can freeze as well.

There are a few classifications used to describe frostbite depending on its severity. These include:

  • Grade 1 – Mild, with no permanent damage
  • Grade 2 – Tissue amputation, nail sequelae
  • Grade 3 – Bone amputation, function sequelae
  • Grade 4 – Bone amputation at the limb, systemic involvement, function sequelae
What are the symptoms of frostbite?

The signs of frostbite can change depending on the severity of the condition. Some of these frostbite symptoms include:

  • Numbness
  • Cold skin
  • Prickling feelings
  • White, red, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin tone
  • Severe joint or muscle stiffness
  • Difficulty moving the affected area (i.e., clumsy fingers)
  • Blistering after warming (in severe cases)
  • Pain around the exposed area
  • Skin turning black after warming (sometimes taking days to present)
  • Swelling, redness or discharge around the frostbitten area
What causes frostbite?

The cause of frostbite is always exposure to cold.

This could be caused by prolonged exposure to cold environments or being exposed to extreme cold temperatures without protection. Experiencing frostbite is possible even at temperatures above freezing, especially if skin is wet or you’re exposed to severe wind chills.

Frostbite can also be caused by coming into direct contact surfaces that are extremely cold. In this case, the skin could freeze immediately.

How is frostbite diagnosed?

The first thing the healthcare provider will want to do is evaluate the affected area to check for signs of frostbite. They’ll also want to discuss the potential causes of your frostbite before offering a frostbite diagnosis.

In some cases, the healthcare provider may want to do additional testing alongside your frostbite diagnosis, to check for damaged bones or muscles. This could include tests, such as:

  • X-rays
  • MRIs
  • Bone scans

The healthcare provider may need to perform these tests to determine the severity of your frostbite, so that they can recommend appropriate frostbite treatments.

How is frostbite treated?

If home-remedies like warming the area and removing wet clothing or jewelry isn’t working, the healthcare practitioner can offer additional frostbite treatment options such as:

  • Protecting the area with sterile dressings
  • Assisting with rewarming
  • Prescribing medications for frostbite (oral pain medications, infection-fighting drugs or clot-busting medications)
  • Therapies (physical or whirlpool therapy)
  • Addressing wound care and possible debridement (removal of damaged tissue)
  • Surgery

While it remains unproven, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is being studied as a possible adjunct therapy to help improve frostbite symptoms.

When to see a doctor for frostbite?

If you believe you’re experiencing frostbite, the first thing you should do is cover the area and get out of the cold, if possible. Remove all wet clothing. You should then try to warm the area, using a warm water bath and cover the remainder of your body with a blanket. This will assist your body as it attempts to normalize your temperature.

It’s important to note that rewarming frostbitten tissue can be painful. Using hot water to try and speed up the process won’t work, and this can cause the affected area to become even more painful.

When these methods aren’t helping, it’s a good idea to see a healthcare provider. You may require specialized frostbite treatments or prescription medications for frostbite to help your condition.

A healthcare practitioner on Maple will know the best ways to protect the area from further damage, and the most effective frostbite treatments for you.

What is Maple?

With Maple, you can start talking to a healthcare provider about your symptoms in a matter of minutes. We’re a healthcare app for fast, convenient 24/7 access to Canadian doctors.

Simply log in, tap a button to request a consultation, and we’ll immediately connect you to a healthcare provider via live chat or video. Visit our How it Works page to learn more.

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