Frostbite is damage to parts of the body from freezing. It occurs when ice crystals form in the skin or in deeper tissue. The most common sites for frostbite are the fingers, toes, ears, nose, chin, and cheeks. Frostbite can cause serious injury and needs attention right away. It can cause long-lasting (permanent) tissue damage.
Frostnip is a mild form of frostbite. It does not cause permanent tissue damage. And in many cases it can be treated at home.
Frostbite and frostnip are caused by exposure to cold temperature, usually below 32°F (0°C). How severe the symptoms are depends on several things. These include air temperature, length of time in the cold, wind chill, dampness, and type of clothing worn. Putting ice on the skin for too long can also cause frostbit or frostnip.
Children are more likely to get frostbite than adults. This is because they lose heat from their skin faster. A child is more at risk for frostbite and frostnip because of any of the below:
The symptoms of frostnip include:
The symptoms of frostbite include:
The symptoms of frostbite and frostnip can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam.
Frostnip can usually be treated at home. To do this:
If your child has signs of frostbite:
While waiting for medical attention:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. Your child may need treatment to remove dead tissue. This may be done with a procedure called debridement. Or it may be done with surgery. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all treatments.
In severe cases of frostbite, fingers or toes may need to be removed (amputated) with surgery.
Frostbite can also cause long-term symptoms in the area of damage. These symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years, and may include:
To help prevent frostbite and frostnip:
Call the healthcare provider if your child has:
Frostbite needs medical help right away. Seek medical care as soon as possible if your child has symptoms of frostbite.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider: