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What is frostbite?

Frostbite is freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. The lower the temperature, the quicker frostbite will occur. Frostbite typically affects the extremities, particularly the feet, toes, hands, fingers, ear lobes, or tip of the nose.

The U.S. government’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) identifies the following for frostbite:

OSHA Symptoms of frostbite:

  • Reddened skin develops gray/white patches.
  • Numbness in the affected part.
  • Feels firm or hard.
  • Blisters may occur in the affected part, in severe cases.

OSHA treatment of frostbite:

  • Do not rub the affected area to warm it because this action can cause more damage.
  • Do not apply snow/water. Do not break blisters.
  • Loosely cover and protect the area from contact.
  • Do not try to rewarm the frostbitten area before getting medical help; for example, do not place in warm water. If a frostbitten area is rewarmed and gets frozen again, more tissue damage will occur. It is safer for the frostbitten area to be rewarmed by medical professionals.
  • Give warm sweetened drinks, if the person is alert. Avoid drinks with alcohol.
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