Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can lead to tissue damage of affected areas. The results can range from discomfort to loss of limbs.

Frost-Nip vs. Frost-Bite

Frost nip is a nonfreezing injury of the skin tissues.  Usually of the fingers, toes, ears, cheeks, and chin. Numbness and tingling are present, but no tissue injury occurs.  Symptoms develop when blood vessels narrow because of the cold temperature.  Frostbite is the destruction of body tissues from freezing. Ice crystal form and break apart the cells and destroy the tissue. 


Tissues affected with frost-nip are soft and resilient. When you press against the tissue, the skin indentation springs back. Tissues may appear red, yellow, or gray. Full recovery is expected. 


However with frost-bite, the skin may lose sensation and feel cold, solid, and “wood-like”. The affected skin may also appear pale, blue-tinged, and waxy. Frostbite skin is not resilient, and with extreme cases, small blisters containing clear or bloody fluid may form.


Frost-nip is treated by re-warming the injured area. The affected extremity can often be re-warmed by placing against another person’s underarm or abdomen. The injured area should not be rubbed because doing so can damage the tissue. 

Frostbite should be treated with rapid thawing in a warm bath. Never rubbing or manipulating the frostbitten area. The affected extremity should not be thawed until the person is in a warm environment. Thawing and refreezing will result in significantly more damage to the tissue. Frozen feet may be walked on if necessary. Once feet begin to thaw, walking on them should be avoided. All people with frostbite should be treated as if they are hypothermic until proven otherwise. Seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

IMPORTANT – The procedures described on this website are not a substitute for medical, first aid or CPR training. Always seek treatment from a trained medical professional whenever possible.



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