Cold injury

Localized tissue damage caused by chilling, the most serious form of which is frostbite. Cold injury is distinct from hypothermia, which refers to chilling of the whole body. In frostbite, an area of skin and flesh becomes frozen, hard, and white as a result of exposure to very cold, dry air. Sometimes there is restriction of the blood supply to the affected area. Another type of cold injury, immersion foot, occurs when the legs and feet are kept cold and damp for hours or days. The main risk of both conditions is that blood flow will be slowed so much that the tissues will die, leading to gangrene. Less serious forms of cold injury include chilblains and chapped skin.


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