1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Frostbite First Aid

Symptoms and Treatment of Frostbite


Updated January 24, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

You might know that frostbite happens in fingers and toes. You might know it comes from being in really cold weather. You may even know it can come from improperly icing an injury. But do you know how to recognize frostbite and what to do about it?

Frostbite Symptoms

Frostbite is literally frozen tissues and fluids in the skin. As the tissues get colder, the damage leads to inflammation and swelling, just as is the case with a burn.

Frostbite Pictures

Frostbitten fingertips
(c) Sandra Mu/Getty Images

Frostbite damages body tissues in much the same way that burns do. In fact, frostbite injuries and burn injuries can look very similar, and frostbite can be categorized in the same way.

Frostbite Stages

frostbite animation
(c) About.com

This animated video shows the stages and effects of frostbite.

Frostbite Treatment

Frostbite occurs when the body's tissues freeze deeply in the cold. Ice crystals that form in the tissues cause damage to the cells. It's important not to try to rewarm or treat frostbite until you're relatively certain that the tissues will not refreeze. Once frostbite is identified, the first step is to prevent further damage.

Related Video
How to Dress a Wound

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.