Nepal is a fascinating destination for people looking for adventure and it is one of the most incredible travel destinations on earth. However, visitors to Nepal’s snow-covered mountains are also at a high risk of serious medical problems such as frostbite.
What is frostbite?
Frostbite is a condition that occurs when a person is exposed to low temperatures, which leads to freezing and numbness of the skin and other tissues. The skin might turn white or gray, and becomes cold and hard to the touch. The areas of the body most vulnerable to frostbite are the fingers, toes, nose, cheeks, and ears.
As frostbite progresses, it affects all layers of the skin, and the tissues that lie below. But if you take necessary precautions, the condition is treatable.
Here are some tips to prevent frostbite if you’re planning to go trekking in the freezing mountains of Nepal.
1. Wear loose, light, and comfortable layers of clothing to preserve body heat
Proper clothing is the first thing to consider if you are going to trek in Nepal, but what’s equally important is to wear loose, light layers which helps trap warm air.
The innermost layer of your clothing should be made of synthetic materials, which absorbs moisture away from your body. The next layer should be wool and fleece which are good insulators and hold in more body heat than cotton.
Finally the outermost layer of your clothing should be made of windproof and waterproof materials to keep away the cold wind or moisture.
2. Your hands, feet, nose, cheeks, and ears are the most vulnerable
Your hands, feet, nose, and ears are most vulnerable since they are usually exposed to the weather more than other parts of your body.
Remember to wear insulated mittens or gloves to help protect your hands from the cold. For your feet and toes, wear two pairs of socks, with the inner pair being a moisture absorbing fabric and the outer one being of a wool-blend. Warm boots that cover the ankles can also provide suitable insulation.
Similarly, you can protect your ears with a heavy wool or fleece hat and your face can be covered with a scarf or face mask.
3. Keeping yourself hydrated can reduce the risk of developing frostbite
If you are at a high altitude, you might get dehydrated because of quick and deep breaths. This can be extra dangerous since dehydration also increases the risk of developing frostbite.
Due to this, it is advised that you keep on drinking water even when you aren’t thirsty. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you should have any drinks containing alcohol or caffeine as these will dehydrate you further.
4. Avoid wearing wet clothing at all costs
While trekking, snow may enter your boots or other clothing causing them to get wet. Be very careful about this since wet clothing can highly increase the chance of frostbite.
5. Always check the temperature and weather forecast before heading out
In the excitement of climbing a beautiful mountain, chances are that you might forget to check the temperature and weather forecasts before heading out.
Keep in mind that as the temperature falls, there will be high chances of severe snowstorms and high winds. Such bad weather conditions can give you deep frostbite that affects the tissues as well.
6. Keep checking your skin for symptoms of frostbite
Whenever you are in places with very low temperature, it is very important to check your skin for symptoms of frostbite.
Early symptoms of frostbite can include
- Cold skin that feels prickly
- Skin becoming red, white or light bluish
Early symptoms can be cured by keeping the affected parts warm. However if the skin becomes white or grayish-yellow and you start getting fever and feeling dizzy, then you could be suffering from deep frostbite that needs immediate medical attention.
7. Superficial frostbites can be dealt with some simple techniques
As mentioned above, early symptoms of frostbite can be mitigated with the following methods:
- Get to a warm place immediately and change into dry clothes if yours are wet. Wrap up yourself in a warm blanket to get warm.
- Have a warm drink like tea, hot chocolate, or just warm water to start bringing your body temperature back to normal.
- Immerse the affected area in warm water for 30 to 40 minutes. Do not use very hot water as it can damage the tissues.
- Don’t attempt to go outside immediately even after you get warm.
Warming up the affected area with warm water is the safest method for regaining heat and curing early frostbites.
A few other things to remember:
- Do not rub the affected area for generating heat because this might increase damage to the tissue.
- If you are using hot water bottles or chemical hot packs, wrap them in cloth and don’t apply them directly to the skin.
- Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, stove, fireplace, or radiator to rewarm the affected area as these methods might burn the skin.
Suffering from frostbite? Get yourself treated now!
Frostbite can be very dangerous if not treated properly on time. Our team of medical experts at Swacon International Hospital have extensive experience with Travel Medicine and have treated many tourists over the years.
Health for All