A friend Rima, or “Tyre Girl Runneth”, did the coldest marathon on the continental US: the Arrowhead 135 Ultra in International Falls, MN last January 27th. She experienced concerning frostbite to the tip of a finger. It’s been especially cold this winter and a review of frostbite is appropriate for runners as it affects the extremities including fingers and toes.
In the Arrowhead Ultra, temperatures dropped to -30 degrees. In spite of cautionary and preventive measures, frostbite happens. Frostbite is staged like burns: in first, second and third degrees. A first degree injury is reversible, a red, numb nose for example. Second degree frostbite involves blisters and third degree turns the toe or finger black like a severe burn. If the finger or toe remains moist, blistered and black with lack of blood flow it can become infected and may require surgical amputation. On the other hand, if the digit turns black and remains relatively dry it can auto amputate on its own without surgery.
Treatment for frost bite is prevention first and foremost. Layers of socks and gloves can be supplemented with self contained warmers. When frostbite occurs, one has to slowly bring the part back to normal body temperature in hopes of restoring the blood flow. For Rima’s story see https://tyregirl.com.