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- Exposure to freezing temperatures without adequate covering
- Low body temperature ( hypothermia )
- Age: very young or very old
- History of previous cold weather injury
- High-altitude cold exposure
- Working in freezing conditions
- Participating in winter sports or high-altitude sports
- Wearing wet clothing
- Suffering from a condition that affects your mental status, such as:
- Inability to move
- Using drugs that cause your blood vessels to become constricted (such as nicotine)
- Medical conditions, such as:
- Coldness or firmness of tissue
- Waxy appearance of the skin
- Color ranging from red to white to blue, depending on severity
- Blisters that may be filled with clear or bloody fluid
- Numbness, stinging, burning, or tingling
- Joint pain
- Try to get to a warm location. Wrap yourself in blankets.
- Do not put snow or hot water on the injured area.
- Do not rub affected areas.
- Tuck your hands into your armpits to try to rewarm them.
- If it's available, use warm water (at about 105°F [40°C]) to rewarm your frostbitten area.
- Avoid refreezing the affected area. This can result in more severe injury.
- Walking on frozen feet and toes can cause damage. It may be more important to find shelter.
- Drink warm liquids.
- Avoid alcohol and sedatives.
- Cover the injured area with a clean cloth until you can get medical help.
Rewarming can be intensely painful. To relieve pain take:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Opening and emptying blisters
- Taking antibiotics
- Taking pain medication
- Keeping the injured body part elevated above your heart
- Getting a tetanus booster shot
- Receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This is a special chamber under greater pressure than normal. It will help with blood flow and tissue repair.
- Amputation of all or part of the affected body part. This may be necessary in severe frostbite cases.
- Cover your head, face, hands, and feet adequately.
- Wear layers of clothing.
- Wear materials that provide good insulation. It should keep moisture away from the skin. (such as wool, polyester, polypropylene)
- Make sure you wear a waterproof outer layer and stay dry.
- Avoid drinking alcohol when you will be in cold weather.
American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.aafp.org
National Library of Medicine http://www.nlm.nih.gov
About Kids Health http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Conn HF, Rakel. Conn’s Current Therapy. 54th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2002.
Frostbite: first aid. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-frostbite/FA00023. Updated January 2008. Accessed July 21, 2009.
Rosen P, Barkin R, Danzl D, et al. Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby-Year Book; 1998.
- Reviewer: Peter Lucas, MD
- Review Date: 09/2012 -
- Update Date: 00/93/2012 -