Baby, it’s cold outside — prevent frostbite

Frost bite isn’t “Jack Frost nipping at your nose.” It’s more severe and doesn’t come with a snappy song. The mere thought of my skin being cold enough to start forming ice crystals below the surface sounds more horror film than holiday special.

After recently joining in a frosty ski and observing a ski race, I felt the need to go back home and find out if I’m really overdressing for the situation or if my numerous layers were still the best way to combat frost bite. What I learned was that frost nip is actually a term, not a song lyric. Wearing layers makes everyone look smart and carrying extra hand-warmers never goes out of fashion.

There are some tell tail signs to look out for if your skin is starting to freeze. Frostnip is the first stage of frostbite. Unlike frostbite, frostnip is reversible. When the superficial skin layers and blood vessels start to constrict (vasoconstriction), the skin starts to numb and turn white. The major difference is that with frostnip, the skin is still malleable. Please make sure to keep that blood flowing.

Please don’t worry if those extra layers make it look like you’ve gained a few holiday pounds. Choosing style over layering can be deadly. Frostbite is classified similar to burns, divided into four degrees based on the level of skin damage. The most severe can lead to amputation and even death. (Yes, that is extreme and macabre.) You can’t get frostbite just by walking outside, but if the temperature is below zero, uncovered skin can start to freeze in less than 10 minutes depending on the wind chill factor. I think a few layers are really going to look good on you.

Having the right equipment makes all the difference: Those fancy shoes look great on your feet, but keep a sturdy pair of boots, extra hat, mittens, scarf, socks, hand/toe warmers, and a blanket in your car at all times. If you are hiking, skiing, or outside for a significant length of time, make sure your safety gear pack is up to date. I hope you never have to use them.

Don’t forget about your pets. Dogs and cats can also get frostbite. We use Mushers Secret, a food-grade barrier wax on our dog’s paws. I’ve also made a DIY paw wax version using beeswax and other food-grade oils. The recipe is on Whatever you use, please make sure not to use a petroleum product as the pup will lick whatever is on his/her paws.

Please be safe, especially during these bouts of extreme temperature. Enjoy the outdoors. It may be cold, but as long as you have the proper gear — it’s truly a winter wonderland.

.Diane Chase is the author of the “Adirondack Family Activities” guidebook series, “Adirondack Family Time: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities.” For more family-friendly activities go to