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Treatment for Frostbite on the Ears

by
author image Vaishali Mehta
Vaishali Mehta is a doctor by profession and has a master's degree in otolaryngology from India. She has clinical experience in the field of ENT. She has a passion for medical writing and has written stacks of research articles. She likes to write for health, fitness and nutrition, and otolaryngology-related topics.
Treatment for Frostbite on the Ears
Wearing protective clothing, including a scarf that covers the ears, prevents a frostbite on the ear. Photo Credit altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

In winter months, people are generally concerned about frostbite. Freezing and death of tissue due to excessive exposure to cold temperatures results in a frostbite. The ear is very vulnerable to frostbite. The exposed portion of the outer ear can be affected by frostbite when subjected to subfreezing temperatures. The frozen portion of the ear becomes cold, numb and is hard on touch. Gradual warming is the key to treating frostbite, according to MayoClinic.com.

First Aid

If no medical aid is available, then first aid will help. Seeking warm shelter and shifting the patient out of cold weather as soon as possible will help. The affected ear should be soaked in warm water between 104 to 108 F. Repeatedly applying warm clothes or wrapping the affected ear with a warm towel for half an hour will help return the warm flush and color to the ears.

If you are again going to be exposed to cold weather, it is better not to thaw the affected ear until a permanent warm shelter is sought. Refreezing the thawed tissues can lead to severe damage, according to National Institutes of Health.

Medical Care

Shift the patient to the doctor if medical help is available. Your doctor will then warm the affected ear with a warm water bath for 15 to 30 minutes, if it has not been done earlier. Once the skin has thawed, he will apply dry and thick sterile dressings to the frostbitten ears to protect them, according to MayoClinic.com.

Misconceptions

Do not rub snow or massage the affected ear. Alcohol and smoking should be avoided as they further reduce the blood flow.

Hot water, fire or heating pad should not be used on the frostbite, as these tend to burn the skin.

Prevention/Solution

Avoiding very cold weather and wind chills can help prevent frostbite of the ears.
Wearing several layers of warm clothing will protect against cold weather. Covering the head with ear flaps will help. Wearing a scarf and earmuffs or a hat that fully covers the ears provide good protection to the ear.

Medications

Antioxidants, including vitamin E, when taken before exposure to extreme cold protect against frostbite, according to University of Maryland Medical Center.

Your doctor may prescribe painkillers to ease the accompanying pain and antibiotics to treat any associated infection. According to MayoClinic.com, application of aloe Vera gel to the affected ear will decrease the inflammation.

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