What Is Frost Bite And How Do You Treat It?

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How Does Frostbite Occur?

Frostbite happens when the tissues in the body freeze, because of the contraction of blood vessels which reduce the flow of oxygen and blood to and from the different parts of the body. This condition usually happens when a person is exposed to extreme cold, making the underlying tissues and skin freeze. The commonly affected areas of frostbite are the ones that are usually exposed to direct cold temperature, such as the hands, ears, nose and even feet.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms of Frostbite?

If, for instance, you have been exposed to cold temperature for a long period of time and you notice that your skin changes color into yellowish-gray, very cold to touch, and has a waxy and hard surface, you may be having a frostbite. As frostbite becomes severe, there may be a numbing, itching or burning sensation on the affected part. In the long run, the frostbitten skin will harden and become blistered. When the frostbite finally thaws, the skin becomes painful, red and inflamed. In some cases of frostbite, however, the blood flow can be permanently cut, damaging not only the skin, but also the muscles, blood vessels, nerves and bones.  This can result in permanent tissue death and the affected site may be amputated accordingly.

Frostbite First Aid Tips

It is very important to assess the degree of frostbite to be able to determine the kind of first aid to be given.

If symptoms of frostbite are noticed during its early stage, it can easily be treated by gradually warming the affected area.

Frostbite can also be prevented by wearing thick clothing, gloves, as well as head and ear protection when going outdoors during extremely cold weather. Protection is the key to preventing frostbite from advancing further – never touch cold objects against the frostbitten skin.  Stay indoors if possible, especially if you notice that some parts of your skin have frostbites.

On the other hand, if the frostbite is severe it is necessary to call emergency assistance as soon as possible. If the victim is wet, remove clothes and replace with dry ones. Although it is important to gradually warm the victim, it is not advisable to place the frostbitten part in direct heat or hot water, as it can cause further injuries or burns even if the skin feels numb.

Avoid further damage to the tissues by reducing mobility. Do not walk if the feet or toes are frostbitten. If the digits (fingers and toes) are frostbitten, keep the skin separated from each other by placing clean, dry cloth in between them.

Related Video on Frostbite First Aid:


“Stages of Frostbite.” Mayo Clinic. Retrieved online on August 17, 2014 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/frostbite/multimedia/stages-frostbite/flh-20078312

“Frostbite: First Aid.” Mayo Clinic. Retrieved online on August 17, 2014 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-frostbite/basics/art-20056653

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