Save Your Spot
CareWell Urgent Care Logo
Blog

What to Know About Frostbite

January 22, 2020
frostbite on hands

Frostbite is a condition caused when the skin and its underlying tissue is frozen and damaged. It occurs when the skin is exposed to the cold for a prolonged amount of time (or to frigid temperatures for even a short period of time). While cold weather is the most common contributor to frostbite, it can also be caused by contact between the skin and ice, cold metal, or freezing liquids.

Symptoms

Early indicators are skin that turns cold and red, and eventually numb, pale, and hard to the touch. Frostbite sufferers may become clumsy or unsteady because of muscle stiffness, and the skin may blister and change color as it thaws. Frostbite occurs most commonly on the toes, fingers, ears, nose, chin, and cheeks. Any exposed skin, however, is susceptible to frostbite in cold, windy weather. In extreme conditions, even skin that is covered by gloves or shoes can become frostbitten.

Because the skin becomes numb quickly, the sufferer may not realize they are in danger of frostbite until someone points out the symptoms to them.

There are varying stages of frostbite, starting with frostnip (the mildest form) and extending to deep frostbite that results in dead tissue, blackened skin, and severe blistering.

Prevention

To prevent frostbite, limit the time spent outside in extremely cold, windy, and wet weather. Always check weather forecasts and dress appropriately, in several layers of warm, loose-fitting clothing. Windbreakers and waterproof raingear and footwear can protect the extremities from bad weather. Hats, headbands, or earmuffs should be worn to protect the ears from wind and cold.

Check for early signs of frostbite after exposure to the cold and find warm shelter at the first indication of red, numb, or “prickling” skin. It’s a good idea to pack emergency supplies and extra clothing and blankets in the event of a vehicle breakdown or another unexpected situation that may lead to exposure to prolonged cold.

When to see a doctor

Seek immediate medical attention if symptoms of frostbite are present during or after exposure to the cold or if the skin becomes painful to the touch, swollen, red, or blistered. Other symptoms that may require urgent evaluation and treatment include unexplained fever, intense shivering, drowsiness or loss of coordination, and slurred speech.

Care You Can Count On
View All Locations
Our Locations
1400 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Save Your Spot in Line
380 John Fitch Highway
Fitchburg, MA 01420
Save Your Spot in Line
58 Bedford Street
Lexington, MA 02420
Save Your Spot in Line
922 Highland Avenue
Needham, MA 02494
Save Your Spot in Line
333 Southwest Cutoff
Northborough, MA 01532
Save Your Spot in Line
42 Washington St.
Norwell, MA 02061
Save Your Spot in Line
229 Andover Street (Rt 114)
Peabody, MA 01960
Save Your Spot in Line
Patriot Square 484 Rte. 134
South Dennis, MA 02660
Save Your Spot in Line
345 Main Street
Tewksbury, MA 01876
Save Your Spot in Line
535 Centerville Road
Warwick, RI 02886
Save Your Spot in Line
348 Greenwood Street
Worcester, MA 01607
Save Your Spot in Line
500 Lincoln Street
Worcester, MA 01605
Save Your Spot in Line
2024 Emergence Health Holdings. All rights reserved. Website Design by Healthcare Success