How to Prevent Frostbite

February 16, 2015
frost bite

An extremely serious condition caused by cold temperatures, frostbite is literally the freezing of tissues. Typically, ears, toes, fingers and the nose are most vulnerable; however, any living tissue can fall prey, so it's important to take precautionary steps to limit your risk.
What Are the Risks?
Frostbite can lead to a variety of long-term consequences, including:

  • Increased risk of future incidents of frostbite
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Long-term numbness of an impacted area
  • Permanent changes in joint cartilage
  • Growth defects related to damage to a bone's growth plate
  • Gangrene and amputation

To prevent frostbite, it's important to take precautionary steps when exposed to cold temperatures. These include:

  • Limit exposure to wet, cold or windy conditions.
  • Be aware of weather forecasts and wind chill readings.
  • Dress in layers of warm, loose clothing.
  • Change wet clothing, especially socks, hats and gloves.
  • Cover your ears with a headband, hat or earmuffs.
  • Dress children with mittens instead of gloves.
  • Wear socks that fit well.
  • Avoid alcohol and cigarettes, since these can make it hard for your body to warm itself.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Keep moving to stimulate circulation.
  • Change out of sweaty clothes.

Many people are surprised to learn that frostbite can occur in a matter of minutes, so it's very important to recognize telltale symptoms, such as numbness, pain, prickling and pale or red skin. If you notice these symptoms, get to a warm place and remove any wet clothing. If the symptoms persist, seek prompt medical attention to guard against potentially serious long-term consequences.

father and daughter hugging
The overall care I received was excellent! I also appreciate your affiliation with Yale New Haven Hospital.
Derby, CT
  • 5.0
  • 4.6