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The danger of frostbite

Posted January 07, 2015 in Advice Column, Norwalk


Exposure to below freezing temperatures can cause frostbite, a rare but serious condition that requires emergency care.  Frostbite can affect any area of the skin and in extreme cold can develop within minutes.

Some of the signs and symptoms of frostbite are aching pain or numbness, most often on hands, feet, face and ears.  Also, the skin will begin to feel hard and waxy, with a white or grayish yellow color.

If you think you or your child(ren) are frostbitten, call your physician right away.  Begin these steps:

  • Come indoors immediately, do not try to thaw frostbite unless you are in a warm place
  • Remove any wet clothing
  • Do not rub frostbitten parts of the body, treat them gently
  • Do not use dry heat such as a fireplace, oven or heating pad to thaw frostbite
  • Do not break any blisters that may have formed
  • Warm the frostbitten area in warm, not hot, water for approximately 30 minutes
  • Place clean cotton balls between frostbitten fingers and toes after they have been warmed
  • Loosely wrap warmed areas with clean bandages to prevent refreezing
  • Use ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain
  • Seek emergency medical care is you have a body part or area of skin that is turning white and hard


Always stay updated on weather forecasts. Keep yourself and children warm and dry in cold weather. Loose-fitting, layered warm clothes are best. Always wear well-insulated boots, thick socks, hats, scarves, mittens or gloves. 

If you need to use an icepack, remember, they too can cause frostbite.  Never apply an icepack directly to the skin, always cover the icepack with a cloth before applying to the skin.

Article from Norwalk Family Physicians, information provided from “Your Growing Child”, A Kids Health Guide to Injuries and Illnesses.

Information from “Your Growing Child,” A Kids Health Guide to Injuries and Illnesses, provided by Norwalk Family

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