Field of Science

TMI Friday: When you've literrally had your Chips

The victim of this weeks TMI friday didn't really do anything wrong. In fact, this is less of a TMI Friday than a FML Friday, but it's an odd story that perhaps you'll find interesting, and perhaps learn from.
Our story begins with a 42-year old gym teacher who had hurt her foot. She didn't exactly know what could have caused the pain, but the point was that it was there. She had been enduring it  for four weeks, and her doctor had given her painkillers to help her get over the pain.
But it wasn't enough, but there are other things people can do to relieve pain, such as wrapping something very cold in a towel and applying it to the afflicted area. It usually works pretty well.
That was what this lady did. She wrapped a bag of frozen chips in a towel and rested it upon her aching feet. But then she fell asleep.
When she awoke forty minutes later, she found that the pain had subsided, but that her foot had now become swollen and red. The next day, the foot became discoloured, and her doctor prescribed her a course of antibiotics. The day after, she was in the emergency room with what was described in the paper as "third degree frostbite".
Frostbite causes blood vessels to constrict, which helps the body to retain heat, but reduces the blood flow to the extremities. Your extremities need blood, so not getting it can be pretty bad for them. When it gets cold enough for layers of skin to freeze, the real trouble begins, because this can cause the cells to die off, and can lead to blisters.  In this particular case, the cold compress froze the nerves and muscles below the skin, causing them to die off.
This is why physicians recommend that you always try to put some layers of fabric between you and the cold surface,and that you should never put on a cold compress for more than 30 minutes. Also, Chips are for eating.

Graham C.A. Frozen chips: an unusual cause of severe frostbite injury, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 34 (5) 382-383. DOI:

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