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Frostbite is freezing of the skin or underlying tissues that occurs as a result of prolonged exposure to cold. It mainly affects the feet, hands, ears and nose. Frost bitten skin is pale or blue, stiff or rubbery to touch, and feels cold and numb. The severity is divided into 3 degrees:

First degree: frostnip – Skin whitish and numb, but there is little likelihood of blistering if it is re warmed properly.

Second degree: Superficial frostbite – Outer skin feels hard and frozen, but tissue underneath has normal resilience. Blistering is likely.

Third degree: Deep frostbite – Skin is white or blotchy and blue. Skin and tissue underneath are hard and very cold.


  • Get inside or take shelter from the wind
  • Check for signs of hypothermia and treat it before treating frostbite
  • Protect the frozen body part from further exposure. Don’t re warm the area if refreezing is possible. Wait until you reach shelter
  • Warm small areas (ears, face, nose, fingers, toes) with warm breath or by tucking hands or feet inside warm clothing next to bare skin
  • Don’t rub or massage the frozen area, because doing so will further damage tissues. Avoid walking on frostbitten feet if possible
  • To reduce pain and swelling, keep the frostbitten body part warm and slightly elevated. Wrap it with blankets or soft material to prevent bruising. If possible, immerse it in warm water (104 degrees to 108 degrees) for 15 to 30 minutes, or until the tissue becomes soft
  • Blisters may appear as the skin warms. Do not break them. The risk of infection is very high. The skin may turn red, burn, tingle, or be very painful