Frostbite is a freezing of the skin or underlying tissue that occurs as a result of exposure to cold temperatures. It can occur quickly in very cold weather or in conditions where wind chill speeds up body heat loss. Frostbite generally affects the toes, feet, fingers, earlobes, and nose. It leaves the skin feeling hard, cold, pale or blue, numb, and possibly blistered.

Frostnip is an early form of frostbite characterized by numbness and whitening of the skin.

PREVENTION

  • Stay dry, wear multiple layers of clothing, ideally wicking materials that pull moisture away from the skin, and keep all potentially exposed areas (ears, nose, etc.) well covered if you expect to spend any length of time in the cold.
  • Always wear a hat in the cold and consider wearing mittens rather than gloves.

TREATMENT

  • Take shelter from the cold and wind.

For mild frostnip to small body areas:

  • Warm the area by breathing on it through cupped hands, or by placing the frostnip region into the warm underarm area.

For frostbite:

  • Avoid rubbing and massaging the area.
  • Re-warm affected area in warm water (101°F to 104°F, 38.3°C to 40°C).
  • Seek emergency care.