Frostbite is caused by long exposure to cold, which freezes the skin and damages its underlying tissue.
What to look for in case of frostbite:
- Numb, cold skin;
- Skin that turns blue, white or looks blackened and becomes hard, waxy and frozen;
- Loss of function in the frozen area.
If you believe you or someone you’re with has suffered frostbite, call 911 or go to an emergency facility immediately. If awaiting medical help, treat the frostbite as follows:
- Move the victim to a nearby shelter;
- Remove any tight clothing or jewelry;
- Place frostbitten hands or feet in a bowl of water no hotter than 105 degrees for 20 minutes; gently stir the water, and add warm water as it cools;
- You can also soak a cotton cloth in warm water and place it on the frostbitten area for at least 30 minutes; resoak the cloth in warm water to keep it warm;
- NOTE: If warm water is not available, use your own body, blankets or newspapers to warm the skin.
Once the damaged skin is soft and warm, and the feeling and color return, dry it. Then place a clean, dry cloth over the skin. Place clean, dry clothes between frostbitten fingers. Wrap more dry cloths over the area to keep it warm.