Frostbite

Common Name(s)

Frostbite

Frostbite occurs when the skin and tissue underneath the skin freezes due to prolonged exposure to the cold. Symptoms may include cold skin, a prickly feeling, numbness, skin discoloration, hard/waxy-looking skin, joint and muscle stiffness, and in severe cases skin will blister after rewarming. The most common places on the body to get frostbite are on the nose, fingers, toes, cheeks, ears, and chin. Because of the numbness, a person may not realize they have frostbite.

Frostbite happens because your body tries to keep your body temperature warm (preventing hypothermia) so that all your vital organs, like your heart, are able to do work normally. In order to do this, the body tell your arms and legs to narrow their blood vessels so more blood goes to your organs. If you remain in the cold, the body will eventually shut down the blood supply to your extremities (body parts farthest away from your heart).

Frostbite is most often due to exposure to cold temperatures, but can be caused by direct contact with frozen metals or ice. To prevent frostbite, wear clothing which will keep you warm (layers of clothing are best), make certain your hands, feet and face are well covered, and limit the time you stay out in very cold weather. Risk factors for frostbite include alcohol or drug abuse (limits awareness of being cold), being an infant or older adult, being at a high altitude, or previous cold-related injuries. Diabetes and smoking can also increase your risk.

If someone might have frostbite, get them to a warm area and out of wet clothes. Do not try to rewarm the areas where frostbite might have occurred unless there is no chance of it refreezing. Do not rub the areas. Seek medical attention right away. Medical treatment will first focus on stabilizing the body temperature and then rewarming the affected areas. Further treatment depends on the amount of damage which occurred and this may take a few days or longer to determine.

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Condition Specific Organizations

Following organizations serve the condition "Frostbite" for support, advocacy or research.

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General Support Organizations

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Scientific Literature

Articles from the PubMed Database

Research articles describe the outcome of a single study. They are the published results of original research.
The terms "Frostbite" returned 47 free, full-text research articles on human participants. First 3 results:

A new treatment for frostbite sequelae; Botulinum toxin.
 

Author(s): Arne Johan Norheim, James Mercer, Frauke Musial, Louis de Weerd

Journal: Int J Circumpolar Health. 2017 ;76(1):1273677.

 

Frostbite sequelae are a relevant occupational injury outcome for soldiers in arctic environments. A Caucasian male soldier suffered frostbite to both hands during a military winter exercise. He developed sensory-motor disturbances and cold hypersensitivity. Angiography and thermography ...

Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

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Burns and frostbite in the Red Army during World War II.
 

Author(s): Vladimir Sokolov, Alexey Biryukov, Igor Chmyrev, Mikhail Tarasenko, Pavel Kabanov

Journal:

 

The start of World War II (WWII) led to the deployment of combat troops in several continents. Destruction and many casualties among both the military and civilians became an inevitable consequence. A large amount of people injured were in need of life-saving treatment and a speedy ...

Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

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Treatment of severe frostbite with iloprost in northern Canada.
 

Author(s): Alexander Poole, Josianne Gauthier

Journal: CMAJ. 2016 Dec;188(17-18):1255-1258.

 

Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

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Reviews from the PubMed Database

Review articles summarize what is currently known about a disease. They discuss research previously published by others.
The terms "Frostbite" returned 4 free, full-text review articles on human participants. First 3 results:

Frostbite: Spectrum of Imaging Findings and Guidelines for Management.
 

Author(s): John D Millet, Richard K J Brown, Benjamin Levi, Casey T Kraft, Jon A Jacobson, Milton D Gross, Ka Kit Wong

Journal: Radiographics. ;36(7):2154-2169.

 

Frostbite is a localized cold thermal injury that results from tissue freezing. Frostbite injuries can have a substantial effect on long-term limb function and mobility if not promptly evaluated and treated. Imaging plays a critical role in initial evaluation of frostbite injuries ...

Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

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Preventing and Managing Hypothermia and Frostbite Injury.
 

Author(s): Jessie Fudge

Journal: Sports Health. ;8(2):133-9.

 

Hypothermia and frostbite injuries occur in cold weather activities and sporting events.

Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

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Use of Intra-arterial Thrombolytic Therapy for Acute Treatment of Frostbite in 62 Patients with Review of Thrombolytic Therapy in Frostbite.
 

Author(s): Teresa Gonzaga, Kamrun Jenabzadeh, Christopher P Anderson, William J Mohr, Frederick W Endorf, David H Ahrenholz

Journal: J Burn Care Res. ;37(4):e323-34.

 

Amputations are common after severe frostbite injuries, often mediated by postinjury arterial thrombosis. Since 1994, the authors have performed angiography to identify perfusion deficits in severely frostbitten digits and treated these lesions with intraarterial infusion of thrombolytic ...

Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

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Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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