If you live in a cold weather area, you probably know the safety precautions that you need to take for those frigid days. You might keep some blankets and a candle in the car in case you get stranded. Or, you know to limit your time in the cold and perhaps plan a walking route that includes buildings along the way where you can warm up.
Emergency blankets, staying indoors, and wearing lots of layers are all very common sense when you live where the air hurts your face in the wintertime. However, one thing we tend to forget about is our piercings.
Metals are thermal conductors, which means that they tend to feel hotter or colder than external temperatures. When you’re pierced, the metal touching your skin contributes to a rapid loss of body heat in the pierced area, making it more susceptible to frostbite than the rest of your skin.
While you need to be aware of this with any metal jewelry, piercings gain contact with your skin both internally and externally, adding to the risk of frostbite. Additionally, piercings are often found on the face and ears in places that may not be properly protected from the cold.
The obvious solution to this increased risk of frostbite would be to take your piercings out in colder temperatures or to opt for plastic piercing retainers, which won’t be conductive like metal. But, when you’re facing weeks or months of frigid cold, there will be times when you have to brave the chill with your metal piercings. Here are some tips on how to avoid frostbite around your piercings.
Signs of Frostbite
Beginning signs of incoming frostbite include discomfort. You might notice that the skin around your piercing starts to prickle in the cold, and you’ll feel that the metal in your jewelry is cold to the touch. Don’t ignore the slight pains; cover the area immediately and try to get out of the cold as soon as possible.
After the pain comes the numbness. While it might feel like a relief, this is actually a sign that frostbite is imminent. The additional bad news is that you can no longer rely on your nerves to give you a sign that something is wrong, and this is where people often hurt themselves. The numbness lulls them into a false sense of security, and they ignore additional signs of adverse reactions to the cold. Don’t be that person.
Finally, your skin will start to turn red or take on a pallor. Basically, any change of skin tone is a clear sign that you need to get out of the cold ASAP because you are in the beginning stages of frostbite.
What to do in case of frostbite
Even when you know the signs, sometimes you’re in a situation where you can’t get out of the cold. Luckily, mild frostbite is fairly easy to treat, but you must rewarm your body correctly or you risk nerve damage.
First, you’ll want to take out your jewelry. The key to treating mild frostbite is by gradually rewarming the frostbitten area in a controlled manner, and the conductive metal will make that difficult.
Second, run the affected area under lukewarm water. This may seem counterintuitive to a cold-weather injury, but the cooler water is imperative; numb skin won’t be able to feel if the water is too warm, and it could cause damage.
Keep the skin in the water until you start to regain feeling. This is the most uncomfortable part of the process. As your blood flows through the area, it will start to prickle and sting. Stick through it because it means that you’re almost done!
Finally, keep yourself warm. When your body gets super cold, the blood rushes to your core to keep your internal organs as warm as possible, leaving your extremities more susceptible to the cold. Even after treating the frostbitten area, the rest of your body is going to be pretty tired from fighting the extreme temperatures. Sit in front of the fire, curl up with a good book, and maybe forget about venturing outdoors for the day.
Extreme frostbite happens after prolonged exposure to the cold. If you’re in extreme temperatures for a long period of time, it’s a good idea to forego the jewelry in favor of proper winter gear.
However, accidents do happen, so if you find yourself stranded in the cold, make sure that any jewelry or other exposed metals aren’t touching your skin to help avoid damage.
Signs of extreme frostbite include scabbing, blistering, blueness or blackness of the skin, and weakening of the muscles. If this occurs, you will want to go to the emergency room to warm yourself up. Frostbite is only one of many symptoms of extreme cold, and hypothermia is nothing to play around with.
Even in the middle of a city, extremely cold temperatures can be dangerous. The last thing you want is your adorable eyebrow piercing becoming a health hazard. Be smart, be safe, and remember to take care of your piercings in the cold.