View Full Version : What are the differences between getting burned by heat and by intense cold?

Payton's Servant
03-23-2003, 09:32 PM
What are the physiological differences? Can you get a 1st degree cold burn? 2nd degree? 3rd degree?

I ask because I was recently re-reading Into Thin Air and got the part where Beck Weathers frostbite was described, and soon after I read Weathers own book, and what struck me was that Weathers frostbite wounds; his nose and face, looked very much like a 3rd degree hot burn does, except in Weather's case, there was very little if any of the "scaley" look to the skin that hot burn victims tend to have.

Finally, if you can get a 2nd degree cold burn, would you get blistering as you do with a 2nd degree hot burn?

Ice Wolf
03-23-2003, 11:41 PM
I'm not sure what is the "2nd degree frostbite" stage, but yes, there is blistering. (http://www.thebmc.co.uk/world/mm/mm10.htm) And other stuff, depending on severity.

A few hours after thawing the tissue swells and during the first two days giant blisters form. Try not to break them. These blisters settle during the first week leaving tissue hideously discoloured, and if gangrenous, shrunken and black. This carapace, or shell separates in several weeks. If the frostbite is superficial, pink new skin will appear beneath the carapace: if deep, the end of a toe or finger will gradually separate off - an unsightly but usually painless process.

Compare with 2nd degree burns. (http://www.hmc.psu.edu/healthinfo/b/burns2.htm)

03-24-2003, 04:29 AM
Basically when you get burnt badly the water inside your cells heats up causes the cells to rupture. On the other hand, when you're frostbitten the water inside your cells freezes and expands, which causes the cells to rupture. So although the process is slightly different, the end result is the same. I'll try to find a web site that covers this.

03-24-2003, 07:28 AM
I have recently had a back injury and have been switching between hot and cold on my back. There are minor burns on my back along with intense itching. I have wondered which thing, hot or cold, caused those burns. . . . or indeed if the bright red back is a burn, but I think it is.

03-24-2003, 10:35 AM
I think the 'burned' from cold comes from how your brain perceives pain when you come into contact with something intensely cold. What you 'feel' is a burning sensation...not the 'cold' sensation you get from handling something like an ice cube.

03-24-2003, 09:16 PM
As an emergency doc, in Canada no less, I tell you burns and frostbite have lots of similarities. Frostbite is usually divided into four degrees; burns three.

Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice.
From what I fancy of desire
I favour those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction, ice
Is also good
And would suffice.

- Robert Frost
(probably with a few minor errors)

Qadgop the Mercotan
03-24-2003, 09:32 PM
Pretty damn close, Dr_Paprika! I love that poem, and keep a copy on my desktop.

Fire And Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost

Ike Witt
03-24-2003, 09:49 PM
Wow. Do doctors have to take a poetry class or something?

03-24-2003, 09:51 PM
I've always liked that poem too, but it's been a few years since I've re-read it. Thanks for the correction! :)

Qadgop the Mercotan
03-24-2003, 09:54 PM
Originally posted by adam yax
Wow. Do doctors have to take a poetry class or something?
After spending the day listening to people kvetch, then actually touching them, often in places you wouldn't touch if it weren't necessary, it's nice to appreciate the finer things in life. Robert Frost, along with the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe and the writings of good old JRRT fill the bill for me.

And I don't have anything to add at this time to the subject of the OP, either. :D

Sock Munkey
03-25-2003, 04:03 AM
Heat can causes chemical bonds in the skin to change which doesn't happen with a cold burn.

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