Cold Protecting Ointments and Frostbite: A Questionnaire Study of 830 Conscripts in Finland

Lehmuskallio, Eero
March 1999
Acta Dermato-Venereologica;03/18/99, Vol. 79 Issue 1, p67
Academic Journal
Application of ointments to the face is one of many measures used to avoid frostbite of the head in cold climates. A recent epidemiological study indicated, however, that the use of ointments in the cold may be a considerable risk factor in development of frostbite of the face and ears. A questionnaire on the use of protective ointments was completed by 830 young male conscripts divided into 4 groups by climatic home region on the south-north axis of Finland. Personal estimates of cold exposure, sensitivity to cold, smoking, and cumulative incidence of frostbite to the face and ears were reported. Twenty-one percent of the conscripts had used cold protective ointments, mostly at school age or earlier. In 25% of the conscripts' families some other member (mostly women and children) had used emollients in order to prevent cold injuries. Both the conscripts and their families living in southern Finland used protective ointments more often than those in northern Finland. Almost half (47%) of the conscripts had had frostbites of the head, 42% of the ears and 23% of the face. Those who had used ointments in the cold had a significantly higher cumulative incidence of frostbites on the face (p=0.0031), especially on the cheeks and chin. Their subjective experience concerning the protective effect of ointments in the cold was somewhat or clearly positive in 84% of respondents. The controversy between subjective experience and increased incidence of facial frostbite in ointment users needs further investigation.


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