How to Treat Sunburned or Frostbitten Feet

Whether it's sunshine or time outdoors on a crisp winter day, too much of even a good thing can be damaging to the skin of your feet. Below you'll find suggestions on how to treat sunburned or frostbitten feet.

Sunburn can be especially painful on the tops of feet and toes because skin is so tender there. You experience the same symptoms you do with any burn: pain, redness, swelling, and eventual peeling or blisters.

To treat the pain, run cold water over your feet (or soak in it) and apply a cream or lotion that contains aloe, a plant substance that helps heal burns. To prevent future sunburn, wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.

In contrast, when extremities are exposed to subfreezing temperatures for too long, ice crystals can actually form in the fluids inside skin and tissue. Frostbite warning signs include numbness (or tingling) followed by pain, and skin that turns first red and tender, then white and hard.

If you do experience these warning signs, get indoors as soon as possible, carefully remove your shoes and socks, and slowly place your feet in lukewarm -- not hot -- water. If you can't get to water, place sterile padding between frostbitten toes and wrap your feet in blankets. Don't put your feet on top of a stove or radiator: If they're numb, you might not realize you're being burned. Also, do not rub frostbitten skin. As feeling gradually returns, slowly wiggle your toes. If pain continues, go to a hospital emergency room.

Being prepared and knowing how to avoid common injuries goes a long way toward making sure your feet stay healthy. With the tips from this article in mind, you and your feet should be ready to enjoy whatever lies ahead.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
Suzanne M. Levine, DPM, was a contributing writer to this article.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.