Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Frostbite

Frostbite

What is frostbite?

Frostbite is an injury that can occur in a situation of extreme cold. In frostbite, body tissues become frozen, and permanent damage may occur if the affected area is not treated promptly. Amputation of a body part may be required in the most severe cases. Most commonly, affected body parts include the nose, ears, fingers, toes, cheeks, and chin.

Some conditions may lead to an increased risk for frostbite, such as:

What are the symptoms of frostbite?

The following are the most common symptoms of frostbite. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

In most cases, the victim is unaware of frostbite because the frozen tissues are numb. The symptoms of frostbite may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

What to do if frostbite occurs:

If there are symptoms of frostbite, seek medical attention immediately. Frostbite and hypothermia both result when skin is exposed to cold surroundings and body temperature falls. Hypothermia is a more serious medical condition and requires emergency medical assistance.

If frostbite occurs, protect the victim or yourself with the following recommendations:

A frostbite condition is most often resolved over a period of weeks or months. Sometimes, however, surgery is later needed to remove the dead tissue.

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