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Frostbite Safety

January 22, 2013

Hello EPPS families,

With the cold weather comes the very real possibility of frostbite.  The following information comes from Ottawa Public Health:


The months of December, January and February are the coldest months of the Ottawa winter and it’s difficult to avoid the cold weather. Frostbite is defined as damage of the skin from exposure to cold weather. City of Ottawa Paramedics remind everyone that cold that extremely cold weather can lead to serious complications, the worst being amputation. Injuries from frostbite are extremely common yet extremely preventable.

Frostbite mostly affects areas where the circulation is poor. Since cold weather will cause the body to take preventive measures by constricting (making smaller) the blood vessel, this opens the door to frostbite injuries.

Look for the 4 “P”s of frostbite.

  1. Pink – affected areas will be reddish in colour. This is the first sign of frostbite
  2. Pain – affected areas will become painful
  3. Patches – white, waxy feeling patches show up – skin is dying
  4. Pricklies – the areas will then feel numb

Tips to prevent frostbite.

  • Get to a warm area before frostbite sets in. If it’s too cold outside, consider staying indoors.
  • Keep extra mittens and gloves in the car, house or school bag.
  • Wear larger sized mittens over your gloves.
  • Wear a scarf to protect the chin, lips and cheeks. They are all extremely susceptible to frostbite.
  • Wear two pairs of socks – wool if possible
  • Keep feet warm and dry
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol narrows blood vessels, which promotes frostbite and then hypothermia

Should frostbite set-in…

  • Do not rub or massage affected areas. It may cause more damage.
  • NOT HOT – warm up the area slowly. Use a warm compresses or your own body heat to re-warm the area. Underarms are a good place.
  • If toes or feet are frostbitten, try not to walk on them.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you see white or grey coloured patches or if the area is numb.

Always be on the lookout for the symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia. In case of serious cold weather injury, City of Ottawa Paramedics urges you to seek immediate medical attention.

Protect your child from frostbite

Frostbite occurs when skin that is note covered starts to freeze. It happens most often on the cheecks, ears, nose, fingers and toes.

Signs of Frostbite

  • Cold skin
  • Pale, grey or white patches on the skin
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Pain
  • Swelling and blistering

Treating Frostbite

  • Rewarm the skin slowly with body heat, e.g. cover fingers, toes or ears with warm hands, or place hands on a warm area of the body, like the underarms or stomach.
  • Do not rub or massage the skin.
  • Do not use heating pads, hot water bottles or warm water to rewarm the skin.
  • If necessary, call a doctor for treatment and follow-up.

Safety Tips

  • Keep children indoors if the temperature is below -25ºC, or when the windchill is -28ºC or greater.
  • Make sure children always wear a hat that fully covers their ears.
  • Use neck warmers instead of scarves.
  • Take frequent breaks inside for a warm drink.
  • Keep children active.
  • Cover the skin with layers of clothing, such as thermal underwear, undershirts, sweaters, two pairs of socks, and two pairs of mittens, if necessary.
  • Always remove children’s wet clothing and boots immediately.

At EPPS, we follow board policies and procedures with regard to cold weather. Please find the OCDSB policy and procedure at the following site:



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