Frostbite occurs when a part of the body has cooled down so much that the blood is not circulating through it. It is most common for exposed areas such as hands, feet, ears, nose and cheeks to freeze.

Symptoms of frostbite

The first symptoms are when the skin becomes white and cold, and all feeling in the frozen area disappears. You may experience a stinging or burning sensation when the area starts to thaw. This can be painful. The area can become swollen and red, and blisters may sometimes form.

Warm up slowly – skin to skin

A frostbite injury should be warmed up immediately, otherwise the damage can be serious. You can warm a frozen cheek with a warm hand, and warm up fingers in your armpits. Toes that have frozen can be warmed by someone else on their stomach or in an armpit. Continue the warming process until normal colour and feeling has returned, even if it hurts.

Do not warm up if there is a risk of re-freezing

Deep frostbite injuries should only be warmed up if the injured body part can be kept warm until you receive care. Otherwise, it is better to keep it chilled. Thawing the body part and then letting it get cold again can cause the injury to get worse.

Don’t speed up the warming process

The skin can be damaged if you try to speed up the warming process with a heated object.

Don’t massage the injured area

You should not massage the injured area or walk on frozen feet. This can make the injury worse.