Causes and Symptoms of Frostbite

Wilderness First Aid

Learn what frostbite is, the causes of frostbite, and its symptoms.

Causes and Conditions that may lead to Frostbite

Causes of Frostbite:

Frostbite is a medical condition that occurs during cold weather. Essentially, the victim’s skin and possibly underlying tissue freeze after being overexposed to cold temperatures. The areas where frostbite most often occur is on the fingers, toes, nose or face. In the worst cases amputation may be necessary.

Conditions that may lead to Frostbite:

Not understanding how to layer or not wearing clothing that protects from the cold weather can lead to frostbite.

Staying out in frigid temperatures and wind for too long a period of time. This risk increases as the temperature decreases below 5 degrees F.  Once temperatures fall below about minus 15 frostbite can happen on exposed skin in roughly 30 minutes.

Touching materials such as frozen metal or ice is another way to get frostbite.

Symptoms of Frostbite

Remember because of numbness a person may not realize they are developing frostbite.  

The symptoms of frostbite include:

1) Skin looks red then white to a grayish, blueish white or yellow

2) Skin turns tough and waxy-looking

3) Cool skin and a tingling feeling

4) Shivering

5) Numbness to affected area or loss of sensitivity to touch

6) Muscle and joint stiffness causing clumsiness

7) In more severe cases of frostbite, blisters form after rewarming

Also, while it is important to understand what frostbite is, it is also important to understand the stages of frostbite, how to prevent yourself from getting frostbite and how to treat frostbite

Source: Mayo Clinic