protect feet frostbite

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Protect Your Feet From Frostbite

A Monthly Foot Fact from

Winter sports enthusiasts who ski, snowboard, skate, hike and snowshoe should take steps to protect their feet from frostbite, pulled muscles and other winter woes.

All muscles take longer to warm up when it's cold outside, says Dr. Suzanne Belyea, medical director of

In winter it's more important than ever to do appropriate stretching exercises before taking part in any activity. In the foot, the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia are especially at risk for muscle pulls.

In addition to warming up, choosing the right footwear is important. According to Dr. Belyea, socks should be made of an acrylic that wicks moisture away from feet to counteract dampness caused by sweat or snow.

Wet feet get cold more quickly and are at increased risk of developing frostbite. Socks that are too tight can inhibit circulation, inhibiting the body�s ability to generate warmth.

Some may use an extra pair of socks, but it's better to have one pair made of the right material to keep feet warm and dry. Doubling up with cotton socks, for example, might just keep feet damp and cut off circulation by making boots fit too tightly. Boots of any kind should be insulated and waterproof, offering a snug fit without being too tight. Besides inhibiting circulation, tight boots increase the risk of calluses and blisters. Loosely fitting boots can be troublesome because they don't support feet.

Frostbite is also a major concern. Frostbite can occur in temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on factors including dampness near skin, length of time in the cold, protectiveness of footwear and wind chill. The first symptom is a tingling feeling, then a burning sensation and numbness. Skin appears white, cold, hard, and will later become red and swollen. After skin thaws, blisters may appear. If frostbite moves beneath the skin and affects the blood vessels it becomes a serious situation that poses a risk of infection and loss of the affected limbs.

If frostbite is suspected, it�s critical to warm affected areas immediately. You can use unaffected body parts, such as hands if feet are frostbitten, to warm the area, soak in lukewarm water or wrap in warm blankets.

For more information on protecting the feet from cold and other foot conditions, visit

last update: February 2009

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this material to diagnose or treat a health condition or disease without consulting with your healthcare provider.
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