Frostbite – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment – St John Ambulance

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Frostbite can happen when exposed to freezing cold temperatures. Find out what to look for and what to do.
Frostbite happens when part of the skin and other tissues freeze due to low temperatures. It can lead to loss of sensation and eventually tissue death and gangrene. This usually happens when exposed to freezing cold temperatures and windy weather.
Look for:
Help move the casualty indoors or to somewhere warm.
Once inside, gently remove any constricting rings, gloves, boots or any other constricting items.
Next, warm the affected part with your hands, in your lap.
Place the affected part into warm but not hot water – around 40°C. Dry the area carefully and put on a light dressing, ideally a gauze bandage from your first aid kit.
Once you’ve done that, help them to raise the affected part to reduce swelling. If the casualty is an adult, you can suggest they take the recommended dose of paracetamol tablets. If the casualty is a child, you can give them the recommended dose of paracetamol syrup.
Take or send them to hospital.
Clinically reviewed by Dr Lynn Thomas, MStJ, BSc, MBBS, MA, FRCP
Page review date: March 2021
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