DefinitionBy Mayo Clinic staff
CLICK TO ENLARGE
Frostbite occurs when the skin and body tissue just underneath it freezes. Your skin becomes very cold, then numb, hard and pale. Frostbite typically affects smaller, more exposed areas of your body, such as your fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin.
Frostnip, the first stage of frostbite, irritates the skin but doesn't cause permanent damage. You can treat mild forms of frostbite with first-aid measures, including slowly warming your skin with warm water. Severe frostbite, however, requires medical attention, as it can damage skin, tissues, muscle and bones and lead to complications, such as infection and nerve damage.
- Pierard GE, et al. Cold injuries. In: Wolff K, et al. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=2953356. Accessed Aug. 1, 2011.
- Mechem CC. Frostbite. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Aug. 1, 2011.
- Winter weather: Frostbite. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/frostbite.asp. Accessed Aug. 1, 2011.
- Frostbite. In: McPhee SJ, et al. Quick Answers to Medical Diagnosis and Therapy. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aid=3264952. Accessed Aug. 1, 2011.
- Winter weather FAQs. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/faq.asp#frostbite. Accessed Aug. 1, 2011.
- Hallam M, et al. Managing frostbite. British Medical Journal. 2010;341:1151.
- Imray C, et al. Cold damage to the extremities: Frostbite and nonfreezing cold injuries. Postgraduate Medicine Journal. 2009;85:481.