Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation.
If you have frostbite, the skin in that area may turn white or grayish-yellow. It may feel firm or waxy when you touch it. The area will also feel numb.
If you have symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care. But if immediate medical care isn't available, here are steps to take:
- Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
- If possible, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes. Walking increases the damage.
- Put the affected area in warm - not hot - water.
- You can also warm the affected area using body heat. For example, use your armpit to warm frostbitten fingers.
- Don't rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
- Don't use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Since frostbite makes an area numb, you could burn it.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Frostbite (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Also in Spanish
- National Center for Environmental Health (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Also in Spanish