In mild cases, frostbite can be treated by simply warming the infected area. Serious cases of frostbite, however, require immediate first aid.
Causes: Frostbite is freezing of skin and possibly underlying tissues. It is caused by exposure to cold, wet conditions and most often affects the face, ears, hands, and feet.
Symptoms: White or yellowish-gray areas of skin, burning or itching sensations, reddened and swollen skin, skin hard to the touch, glossy appearance to the skin, blisters, pain, numbness.
Seek medical attention immediately. Call for EMS, or transport victim to emergency room.
Until medical assistance is available:
DO NOT rub or massage affected area. DO NOT rewarm with hot water or high heat from fireplace or stove. DO NOT allow victim to walk on or use frostbitten digits. DO NOT break blisters. DO NOT allow frostbitten area to touch exposed skin.
Warm affected areas by placing them against victim's body or your body, using gloves, clothing, or blankets to keep frostbitten area from directly touching any exposed skin.
Get victim indoors, remove wet clothes, and take off any clothes or jewelry on affected area.
Check for hypothermia (see hypothermia).
Immerse frostbitten area in lukewarm (102-106 degreesF), not hot, water. If lukewarm water is not available, cover area with warm towels or blankets. Take area out of water, or remove coverings, once skin becomes flushed.
- Place clean cloth between affected toes or fingers if possible, but do not force digits apart if skin sticks together.
Keep frostbitten skin seperated.
- Give victim warm, nonalcoholic, noncaffeinated beverages, and make sure victim is kept warm.
To learn more about first aid and emergency care, see: