Girl, 15, suffers frostbite while skiing despite no exposed skin

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PITTSBURGH - A 15-year-old girl continues to recover from frostbite she suffered while skiing Friday night in Potter County.

Channel 11’s Alan Jennings talked to Joanna White, who said she started skiing at Denton Hill State Park around 5 p.m. Friday and stayed out about four hours.

White, who learned to ski when she was 3 years old, said she didn’t feel anything wrong while she was out. However, about 30 minutes after she took her boots off, she began to feel extreme pain in her feet and she couldn’t move her toes.

“I was out for about four hours, and then I came back in and nothing seemed wrong. I took off my boots, and about a half hour later, I started having pain in my foot. I took my sock off and noticed (something wrong),” White said.

Doctors who are treating White in the outpatient unit of West Penn Hospital’s burn center said she has frostbite even though she was fully clothed, because the boots got wet and were saturated with perspiration. Officials said it was about minus 15 degrees on the slopes late Friday night.

“It was almost like when your feet come back from being cold, except they were really burning,” White said.

Dr. Ariel Aballay, of West Penn Hospital’s burn unit, cautions that frostbite can set in despite a ski suit and boots.

“In this case, what I would guess, is that area was wet with water and sweat; in addition to the cold, that made the injury progress to a deeper type of injury,” Aballay said.

Aballay suggests skiers do an hourly physical check of fingers and toes, and if pain is present, seek immediate medical help.

“Go in every hour or two and just touch your toes. Make sure they turn white and then come back (to regular skin color),” Aballay said.

White was first told she could lose a few toes, but doctors said aggressive treatment was able to keep that from happening.