Fat-finger a text rather than lose digit to frostbite

by Stasia Thompson

The popular half-gloves that leave fingers uncovered for texting may be good for communicating electronically, but they may also lead to permanent loss of fingers due to exposure to the cold. 

"Fingers are one of the first body parts to feel the effects of the cold and damp, and along with toes, ears and the nose are frequently subjected to and even amputation," says Arthur Sanford, MD, Division of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care and Burns, Loyola University Health System. "Better to fat-finger a text due to wearing winter gloves than to lose a finger due to the cold."

Frostbite is most likely to happen in farthest from the heart and those with large exposed areas. "Blood vessels start to constrict at or below 32 degrees Celsius to preserve body temperature," Sanford says. "The lack of blood in areas of the body can lead to freezing and the death of skin tissue."

Sanford says he treats frostbite in people of all ages. "The elderly lady who goes out in the snow to get her mail, falls, breaks a hip and lays in the cold and wet for hours until being discovered is a typical victim of frostbite," he says. "But the younger person who goes on a drinking bender and walks home in the snow and damp is also a familiar sight at Loyola trauma."

When suffering from prolonged exposure to cold, use room temperature or slightly warm water to gently revitalize the body. "Do not use hot water, do not rub with handfuls of snow and do not vigorously massage the frozen area," Sanford warns. Overstimulation can worsen the situation.

Winter wellness tips from Sanford and Loyola include the following:

  • Dress in layers. "If a sweater, pair of socks or other article of clothing gets wet, you can quickly remove it and still be protected from the cold and wet," Sanford says.
  • Wear a hat, gloves or mittens and proper footwear including socks and boots. "Texting gloves may look cool and be handy for communicating, but it is better to wear full gloves or mittens and save your fingers," he says.
  • When outerwear becomes wet, go inside and change to dry clothing. "Wet socks especially are dangerous and can lead to a condition called trench foot, which results in , decay of tissue, infections and even amputation," Sanford says.
  • If the affected area becomes numb, turns red or blue, swells or feels hot, go to the emergency department. "An emergency physician will assess the tissue and take the proper steps to save the body part," he says.
  • Hypothermia, when the body temperature is below 95 degrees F (35 degrees C), was the cause of death for 700 Americans between 1979 and 1998. "Bundling up for winter may take you out of media circulation temporarily, but better that than to permanently lose the ability to text due to frostbite," Sanford says.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Extreme cold snap brings unexpected health risks

Jan 24, 2013

(HealthDay)—As extreme cold blankets many parts of the United States, one expert warns that frigid temperatures can put people at greater risk not only for hypothermia and frostbite, but also for stroke, ...

Winter sports safety: Preparation is key

Jan 20, 2013

(HealthDay)—The outdoor winter sports season is in full swing, which means it's a good time to remind people about winter sports safety tips, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Recommended for you

Tooth loss linked to slowing mind and body

10 hours ago

The memory and walking speeds of adults who have lost all of their teeth decline more rapidly than in those who still have some of their own teeth, finds new UCL research.

Hot flashes linked to increased risk of hip fracture

14 hours ago

Women who experience moderate to severe hot flashes and night sweats during menopause tend to have lower bone mineral density and higher rates of hip fracture than peers who do not have menopausal symptoms, according to a ...

Core hospital care team members may surprise you

14 hours ago

Doctors and nurses are traditionally thought to be the primary caretakers of patients in a typical hospital setting. But according to a study at the burn center intensive care unit at Loyola University Health System, three ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.