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What to do if ... you get frostbite

When the temperature drops to freezing levels, frostbite becomes a concern for many people. Russell Anderson, D.O., a board-certified emergency medicine physician at Hillcrest, gives tips on how to avoid frostbite or what to do if encountered.

What you need to know about frostbite:

• Frostbite can develop within minutes to hours. 

• Commonly occurs from exposure to wind or contact with a cold material such as metal, the ground or water.

• Alcohol predisposes someone to frostbite by impairing judgment and increasing heat loss from dilation of blood vessels.

What are signs of frostbite?

• Areas of the body most frequently affected by frostbite include ears, nose, fingers and toes. 

• Patients report feeling cold, numb or have trouble moving the affected body part. 

• The skin of frostbite tissue may appear white or gray in color. 

What to do if you think frostbite occurs:

• Get to a warm environment.

• Remove wet clothing.

• Place hands and feet in warm water.

What not to do if you think frostbite occurs:

• Avoid walking on frostbitten feet.

• Do not rub frostbitten tissue.

• Do not place hands and feet in hot water.

If you think you are experiencing frostbite, immediately seek medical attention in person or call 911.