Recognize the Signs of Frostbite

Safe and Prepared - Helpful Tips
Published Friday, December 16, 2016

Don't let Jack Frost nip at your nose. Protect yourself from frostbite with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC).

Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin--frostbite may be beginning. Any of the following signs may indicate frostbite:

  • White or grayish-yellow skin area.
  • Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy.
  • Numbness.

As soon as you detect the symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care. If immediate medical care is not available, proceed as follows:

  • Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
  • Don't rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes as this increases the damage.
  • Immerse the affected area in warm--not hot--water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).
  • Don't use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.

Taking preventive action is your best defense against having to deal with extreme cold-weather conditions. For more information on frostbite, visit the CDC's Frostbite page.