Frostbite Prognosis?

I got frostbite on one of my toes today(several others have frostnip). I was seen at the ER and was given antibiotic ointment and some pain meds. The doctor gave me a vague answer as to the prognosis, he said I should be fine provided it doesn’t become infected. Isn’t infection the only risk involved?

The toe is black at the tip and also in a pea sized area under my toenail but not connected to the other spot. It didn’t hurt at all until I was home from the ER, and it hurts immensely now.

I’ve tried googling to get an idea of what I’m in for, but the sites I’ve found aren’t very specific about what differentiates Third and Fourth degree frostbite. Also, how long will this pain last? Any guess as to when I’ll be able to run again?

I have a followup appointment in a couple days, but I’m going crazy worrying about not being able to run. Running has become very important to my emotional well being(or maybe I just think it is).

PS. If you go winter hiking, use gaiters or boots that will keep snow out! My trail shoes are waterproof but the snow got in and kept my feet wet.:frowning:

I think you need to get a better doctor - you don’t just freeze off the tip of your toe and then go home without anything other than a vague talk about infection. From this site -

From your description, it sounds like you might lose the end of your toe, unfortunately.

Not to be all blamey or anything, but I walk in extreme winter conditions all the time - didn’t you notice your feet getting wet and cold?

I didn’t freeze anything off, it’s still there, just frostbitten. And I have a followup with my Primary on Thursday.

I first noticed my feet were wet and cold when I was more than 3/4 of the way to the top of the mountain. My thinking was that there is a cabin with a wood stove there, better to push on and warm up and dry out when I got there. Unfortunately, the jerks who ride snowmobiles up the mountain burned the wood stored in the cabin. They left the sign which reads “Wood for emergency use only” along with plenty of empty beer cans. At that point I panicked a bit and decided to head down.

I accept that I could have avoided all this. Like you I walk in this stuff all the time. I just underestimated the depth of snow and weather conditions on the top of the mountain.

Well, it’s still there now, but if you’ve completely killed the tissue, it will eventually come off, won’t it? I’m not actually experienced with frostbite - I’ve spent 46 years trying very hard to avoid it. :slight_smile:

I’ve had superficial frostbite, many years ago but it sounds like the OP has a more serious case.

The blackened areas seem quite ominous, but my understanding is that you need to allow time to see how much recovery will occur. This can take months. Meanwhile, it goes without saying that avoiding further cold injury to the area is super important.

In a sense, pain is a good sign. Dead tissue doesn’t feel pain. On the other hand, pain sucks.

What’s well and truly dead will eventually come off, either sloughing off on its own or by way of a surgeon’s knife. From what you say, even if the entire blackened are is lost you’re not going to lose the whole toe. Meanwhile, infection is what you want to avoid. A second opinion might be a good idea.

As to how long the pain lasts… well, chronic pain can be a long-term problem with frostbite. Sensitivity to cold can be a long-term problem. You’ll have to wait and see. I am not a doctor and even if I was I can’t advise you over the internet, but I’d expect you’ll be back to running in a few weeks. Just be sure the affected areas aren’t injured by running, make sure your shoes fit properly, etc. Your primary doc is the one to discuss this with.