- Frostbite is a cold injury to the skin
Symptoms of Frostbite
- Symptoms of mild frostbite (or frostnip) are cold, tingling and painful skin.
- True frostbite causes white, hard, numb skin. It can be serious. It always needs medical care after re-warming.
- Common sites are toes, fingers, tip of the nose, the outer ear or cheeks.
Cause of Frostbite
- The nerves, blood vessels and skin cells are frozen for a short time.
- The ears, nose, fingers, and toes are most often affected.
Frostbite Severity - Frostbite can be classified like burns:
- Frostnip (mild frostbite). Cold, tingling and painful skin. No skin changes after re-warming.
- 1st Degree. White and waxy (hard) while frozen. Mild redness and swelling after re-warming. No blisters.
- 2nd Degree. Same as 1st degree plus blisters after 24 hours.
- 3rd Degree. Blood-filled blisters leading to skin damage and scarring.
- Frostbite and hypothermia are two different medical problems.
- Frostbite results from a cold injury to the skin. The body's core temperature can be normal.
- In contrast, hypothermia signals a marked decrease in the body's core temperature. Frostbite may or may not occur. Hypothermia is defined as a body temperature less than 95° F (35° C) rectally. It can be deadly without intervention.
Factors Leading to Frostbite
- Medical Conditions. Patients with diabetes, Raynaud's disease, and previous frostbite are all at greater risk.
- Type of Contact. Frostbite is made worse if the skin and clothing are wet. Touching bare hands to cold metal during freezing weather can cause frostbite right away.
- Time of Contact. The longer the exposure, the greater the heat loss and the chance of frostbite. The wind-chill index also plays a part in how quickly frostbite occurs.