Frostbite is damage to the skin from freezing and is due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, usually below 32° F. It occurs when ice crystals form in the skin or deeper tissue. The most common sites for frostbite are the fingers, hands, toes, feet, ears, nose, and cheeks. The severity depends on several factors including temperature, length of exposure, wind-chill factor, dampness, and type of clothing worn. Children are more prone to frostbite than adults because they lose heat from their skin faster and do not want to come inside when having fun playing outdoors.
Frostnip is less severe and affects the tips of the cheeks, ears, nose, fingers, and toes. It can usually be treated at home. The skin may be reddened and feel numb or tingly. If this occurs, bring your child inside and warm the skin by using warm compresses or immersing the area in warm water (100º F to 105º F) until sensation returns. Do not rub or massage the skin. If symptoms of frostbite occur or warming the skin does not help, call your child's physician immediately.
The following are some of the most common symptoms of frostbite. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Severe frostbite can result in blisters or ulcers forming and may involve deeper tissues. As frostbite progresses, tissue death and gangrene may occur. The symptoms of frostbite may resemble other conditions and medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
Specific treatment for frostbite will be determined by your child's physician based on the extent and severity of the injury. In general:
Further treatment will depend on the extent and severity of injury and may include treatment of skin damage with debridement or surgery.
To help prevent frostbite, consider the following: