Frostbite is an injury to the body that is 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.
Signs of frostbite include
- A white or grayish-yellow skin area
- Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
If you have symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care. But if immediate medical care isn't available, here are steps to take:
- Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
- Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes. Walking increases the damage.
- Put the affected area in warm - not hot - water.
- You can also warm the affected area using body heat. For example, use your armpit to warm frostbitten fingers.
- Don't rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
- Don't use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Since frostbite makes an area numb, you could burn it.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Frostbite (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- JAMA Patient Page: Frostbite (American Medical Association) - PDF Available in Spanish
- Winter Weather Frequently Asked Questions (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Winter Weather: Frostbite (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Cold Stress (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)
- Physical Allergy (Merck & Co., Inc.)
- Protecting Workers from Cold Stress (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) - PDF Available in Spanish
- Raynaud Phenomenon (Beyond the Basics) (UpToDate)
- When Working in Cold, Be Prepared and Be Aware (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Available in Spanish
Health Check Tools
- Cold Injury (DSHI Systems)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Frostbite (National Institutes of Health)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Available in Spanish
- National Center for Environmental Health (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Available in Spanish