Frostbite ranges from the superficial freezing
of the topmost layers of skin, called frostnip, to severe frostbite that affects deeper tissues, such as muscles and bones.
- In deep frostbite, the skin is numb and feels hard, like wood. It looks pale or white. At this point, muscle and bone may be frozen.
- In more severe cases of frostbite, the skin can turn blue, gray or even black because of tissue injury. These changes sometimes don't happen until after the area is warmed.
If you experience serious frostbite,
- see a doctor or go to an emergency room as soon as you can.
- If this is not possible, begin to warm the body part before visiting a doctor.
However, it's best to warm frostbitten areas under medical supervision to minimize tissue damage. Also, because the frostbitten area
can be painful as it thaws, a doctor's office or hospital can give you pain medicines to reduce the discomfort.
If a person with frostbite has a lower-than-normal body temperature (hypothermia),
- the frostbite can only be treated safely once the core body temperature has been restored to normal. This usually is done by removing the person's wet clothing and covering the person with warm blankets, but it may require emergency medical care.
- Frostbitten parts may then be immersed in water that is heated to between 104 degrees Fahrenheit to 108 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 30 minutes. When color and sensation return and the skin feels normal, the area has thawed.
- After thawing, the affected area should be dried, wrapped in gauze and protected from friction. If you have thawed fingers and toes, use gauze or other padding to separate them from one another.
- To warm frostbitten corneas, place your hands over your eyes or cover them with a warm compress. If you think your corneas may have been injured, visit a doctor.
Keywords: treat superficial frostbite; deep frostbite; forsbitten area