Frostbite results from freezing of the tissue. You have frostnip, which is a mild form of frostbite. Unlike frostbite, frostnip does not cause permanent damage to tissues. Frostnip most often affects the earlobes, nose, cheeks, fingers, toes, hands and feet. It causes pain, numbness, and changes in skin color that are not permanent.

To treat frostnip, the affected body part is rewarmed, often with warm water. This may cause pain and tingling.

Home care

  • Care for the affected body part as instructed.

  • Protect the part from further exposure to the cold.

  • Take steps to prevent cold injury in the future (see below).

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider or as advised.

Preventing frostbite and frostnip

To prevent frostbite:

  • Dress for the weather. Wear enough layers to keep you warm. Cover exposed body parts to protect them from the cold.

  • Eat enough food.

  • Don't drink alcohol or smoke. These make the skin more sensitive to cold.

  • Don't get wet when you are exposed to the cold.

  • Carry emergency supplies when you are out in the elements.

  • If you use an ice pack, wrap it in a thin towel, and only use it for up to 15 minutes every 1 to 2 hours.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider for any of the following:

  • Body temperature is less than 95°F (35°C)

  • Skin color and feeling does not return to normal after 1 hour of rewarming

  • Increasing pain or swelling

  • Appearance of clear or blood-filled blisters

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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