Skip to main content
Start your visit now

Dermatologist approved do's and don'ts of frostbite

Winter is here, and that means temperatures have started dropping. When it dips below freezing, it's crucial to protect your skin from frostbite. We talked with Mark P. Seraly, MD, founder of DermatologistOnCall, about preventing frostbite and what to do if you experience frostbite symptoms. Read on for our Frostbite FAQs.
Frostbite FAQs
Q: First, what is frostbite?

A: Frostbite occurs when the skin, and sometimes the tissue under the skin, freezes from exposure to cold temperatures. Frostbite can have severe, and even permanent, damage depending on how long and how frozen the tissue becomes. Usually, we see frostbite affecting the face, nose, ears, fingers, and toes.

Q: What are the symptoms of frostbite?

A: Like many conditions, frostbite is most treatable when it's detected early. The first signs to look for are redness and stinging, burning, and/or throbbing or prickling sensation followed by numbness.

Q: How can we prevent frostbite while we're outside?

A: Preventing frostbite is relatively easy. The big tips to follow would be:

Dress in loose, light, comfortable layers. Keep in mind that tight clothing increases the risk of frostbite.
Protect your feet and toes. I would suggest wearing two layers of socks that are waterproof and covers your ankles.
Protect your head. It's simple – wear a hat when it's cold out! You can also cover your face with a scarf or face mask to warm the air you breathe and prevent frostbite on your nose/face.
Protect your hands. Insulated mittens or gloves are highly recommended.
Stay hydrated. Being dehydrated increases the risk of frostbite, so try to drink at least one glass of water before you head outside and avoid alcohol.
Q: So if we think we have symptoms of frostbite, what should we do?

A: If you are feeling any frostbite symptoms, you should immediately head indoors. It's important that you try to gradually bring feeling back to the body. You should always follow these rules:

Never rub frostbitten skin.
Never submerge skin directly into hot water. Instead, use warm water or a warm washcloth.
If you don't feel sensation returning to your body, or if your skin begins to turn gray, go to an emergency room immediately.