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Cold winter conditions: Learn the difference between frostnip and frostbite

Winters can be harsh on anyone’s skin especially your extremities. With extreme temperature outside overexposure to the frigid cold for long periods of time will affect a person’s nose, hands and feet.

Frostnip and frostbite explained!

When the skin gets too cold it will become extremely pale, numb, cause blistering, redness or giving you a feeling of pins and needles and at times a burning sensation.

What is the difference between frostnip and frostbite?


Frostnip is actually the mildest for of frostbite. It gives ones skin a very chilling feeling turning skin pale or red. People may feel a slight tingling or numbness and if exposed a little long a possible burning feeling. Getting frostnip isn’t serious but a condition that you still need to care for because it can turn into frostbite.


Frostbite is caused by extreme cold as well. This is when the cold actually causes tissue damage to the skin. There are first, second and third degrees of frostbite depending upon how long you were exposed to the elements. This can be serious and professional medical treatment is required since it affects the circulatory line of your extremities.

First degree frostbite:

Skin is pale, feels cold, numb and stiff on the surface while underlying tissues are still warm and no permanent damage occurs.

Second degree frostbite:

Skin may turn white or blue and have a feeling of being frozen or stiff. Most deep tissues under the skin are not harmed but may not be as warm as they should be. Usually when the skin is warmed blisters are formed. Medical attention is advised.

Third degree frostbite:

The skin will turn blue, white or mottled. The tissues that are beneath the surface skin will feel like they are frozen and hard to the touch. When this stage occurs there are deeper parts of the body that are also affected such as nerves, tendons, muscles and blood vessels which require medical attention immediately.

Medical treatment:

First thing you want to do is move the person carefully to a warm place.

Remove their wet clothing and any other object such as rings, bracelets and wrist watches that can constrict the injured areas as the body warms.

Wrap all the injured and frostbitten areas in sterile dressing is you can. Be sure to separate each digit as they are wrapped carefully. Try not to move the exposed fingers and toes as much as possible to prevent further damage to them.

Transport the person to the emergency room as soon as possible or call for an ambulance.

Stay warm and be careful when exposed to the elements!

© 2014 Beverly Mucha / All Rights Reserved

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