Is my frostbite/frostnip healing as expected, or should I get treatment?
January 31, 2010 2:46 PM   Subscribe

I have stupidly given myself a case of frostbite or frostnip by leaving a coldpack on a small area of bare skin for several hours. The worst appears to have reversed, but I really don't like the big welt that has appeared. What should I do next?

I woke up with a very sore hip this morning, probably tendonitis from some ill-sized exercise equipment I've been using for a couple of weeks. After taking some Advil, I applied a coldpack between panties and tight shorts, replacing it a couple of times without looking at the area, for about 3-4 hours. (Yes, this was very stupid. Learn from my bad example.)

About 45 minutes ago, I finally noticed that I had a couple of waxy pale purple patches of skin where the coldpack had slipped onto bare skin, one dime sized and one about 1 inch by 2 inches. I stripped down and warmed the area with my hand (pressure, not rubbing), and those waxy spots disappeared very quickly. The larger area that was covered by the pack was all soft skin, quite red, but over the past half hour, I've developed a raised welt or blister about 6 inches by 3 inches, slightly smaller than the coldpack. It started of as a constellation of smaller welts, but has now fused.

The entire area now actually feels quite warm, but slightly numb to delicate scratching, but normal when touched firmly. Oh, and the original tendonitis pain is all gone, so I don't think that warmth is from the original deep injury/inflammation.

So is this typical resilient healing? If I leave it alone, should I expect the welt to slowly disappear? Or is there anything else I should do?
posted by rosebuddy to Health & Fitness (4 answers total)
Best answer: Frostbite is one of those things that you go to a doctor for, not to ask metafilter. You don't have the capacity to diagnose the severity of the condition yourself and anybody else here couldn't either, really, without seeing detailed photographs and... being a doctor.
posted by tehloki at 3:23 PM on January 31, 2010

Best answer: IANYD Since a significant period of time has passed since the original insult and the skin has been subjected only to room-temperature and body-temperature stimulus, leave it alone. Do not scratch, rub, apply anything, or compress it. Do not pop it or otherwise induce it to weep. Observe it overnight. If it has not gotten any worse, wait for your body to heal from within. Tomorrow, if it gets worse, go to your doctor or urgent care to have it looked at.

Always maintain a thick layer of dry cloth between you and a cold pack and never apply one for more than twenty minutes in any hour.
posted by Old Geezer at 3:26 PM on January 31, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks! So let me explain why these two somewhat contradictory answers are both best answers. ER staff take frostbite very, very seriously -- but once I saw the doctor, he said what I have now is the equivalent of a cold burn, to keep it clean and that it should heal within about 2 weeks.

I decided to go to the ER immediately, and as I walked in to the triage area, I groaned because there were 4 people lined up ahead of me, several more in the outside waiting area, and God knows how many more in the interior waiting areas (regular and fast track). However, once I was triaged and had my admission info taken, I was immediately sent to the fast track area, ahead of a couple of sick looking little kids. I saw the nurse within about 5 minutes, and I saw the doctor less than 10 minutes later. Counting that initial line-up, I spent less than an hour in the ER.

So if anyone else reading this finds themselves in a similar situation (not the same, because you won't be that stupid), get to a walk-in clinic if you can, but if none are available, get to an ER immediately and let the pros decide.
posted by rosebuddy at 5:52 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Glad it worked out and will heal quickly. Just to clarify: I think "fast track," in ER parlance, generally means you have a relatively minor, easily solved problem, and probably won't be admitted. So it's not necessarily the case that they were alarmed by your condition. (Just in case that was making you more nervous about the whole thing.)
posted by palliser at 8:30 PM on January 31, 2010

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