Frostbite Treatment

Frostbite often sets in with little warning. Fortunately, treatment of minor cases are possible at home.

Frostbite is defined as temporary or permanent tissue damage resulting from exposure to cold temperatures. Everyone is susceptible to the damaging effects of frostbite, but fortunately, it's easily preventable. Untreated episodes of frostbite can progress to gangrene, dead tissue, hypothermia and cardiac arrest.


Frostbite occurs when blood flow to the outer layer of skin decreases as it is exposed to cold temperatures. The body naturally tries to protect itself by isolating the cold and restricting its movement to internal, vital organs. As a result, skin tissue freezes and begins to die due to a lack of warm blood supply.


Gradual numbness.

Hardness to skin.

Pale color to affected areas.

Pain, tingling or burning.

Color changes in skin from white to red to purple.



Slurred speach.

Memory loss.


Minor frostbite can be treated at home, provided no tissue has died or been irreversibly damaged. (If skin color is deep purple or black or skin begins to blister, seek medical attention immediately.)

NEVER massage an area affected by frostbite.

NEVER use hot water to warm the skin once frostbite is apparent. Hot water will cause further injury.

NEVER walk on frostbitten feet.

DO not use stimulants if you fear frostbite. Nicotine and caffeine will only make tissue damage worse.


1. Seek shelter.

2. Once inside, remove clothing from frostbitten areas of skin.

3. Immerse affected areas in warm water measuring 100-degrees.

4. Drink warm fluids with high sugar content.

5. After warming, cover affected areas with cloth bandages.

6. Minor pain should be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen.

7. Keep the damaged area raised.

Mild cases of frostbite will begin to heal immediately. Full recovery of skin tissue may take 6-12 months, during which time you may experience burning, tingling, and sensitivity to extreme temperatures.


If shelter is unavailable and there is concern of frostbite, you can help to prevent more serious cases from developing.

1. Find suitable shelter from wind.

2. Remove wet or frozen clothing from affected area.

3. Maintain skin-to-skin contact with another person or animal until help arrives.

4. Keep skin loosely covered with dry, cotton material.


Fortunately, frostbite is easily preventable. Follow these simple guidelines to help ensure your safety during cold weather.

1. Always bring extra layers of clothing along when traveling outdoors. Extra hats, mittens, sweaters, sweatshirts, pants, socks and shoes can be stored in the trunk of a car or carried on backpack.

2. Be aware of weather conditions before traveling outdoors. Winter temperatures can drop without warning. Always be prepared for the worst.

3. Dress in layers. Layers of clothing can be removed and added, as temperatures change.

4. Remove wet clothing immediately. The skin freezes twice as fast when covered with wet clothing.

5. Drink adequate amounts of liquid if exercising outdoors.

6. Always keep skin covered in low temperatures. This includes the head, face, hands and feet.

7. Do not drink alcohol or use stimulants when outdoors for long periods of time.

8. Keep the body moving to encourage blood flow.

9. Apply a moisturizer before heading outdoors. This will help to give your skin an additional safety coating.

© High Speed Ventures 2011