Background: Frostbite, the most common cold injury, occurs in mountaineers, a major group at risk, more often than in the general population.
Objectives: To describe the incidence of frostbite and the situations associated with it in mountaineering, emphasising factors that can be modified to decrease its frequency and severity.
Methods: In this cross sectional, questionnaire based study, 637 mountaineers were asked if they had suffered any frostbite injuries during the preceding two years and to provide the personal and circumstantial details.
Results: The mean incidence was 366/1000 population per year. Grade 1 injury (83.0%) and hands (26.4%) and feet (24.1%) involvement were most common. There was a significant relation between lack of proper equipment (odds ratio 14.3) or guide (p<0.001) and the injury. Inappropriate clothing, lack or incorrect use of equipment, and lack of knowledge of how to deal with cold and severe weather were claimed to be the main reasons for the injury.
Conclusions: In high altitude and winter expeditions, mountaineers should wear appropriate clothing, have the necessary equipment such as quality boots and mittens, use a competent guide, and have training on how to tackle cold weather. They should also avoid wet clothing, windy terrains, and should never remain in the same position for long periods to reduce the risk of cold injuries.
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Competing interests: none declared