Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.
Keep the affected body part elevated in order to reduce swelling
Move to a warm area to prevent further heat loss.
Avoid walking on frostbitten feet as this can lead to further damage.
Note that many people with frostbite may be experiencing hypothermia. Saving their lives is more important than preserving a finger or foot.
Remove all wet clothing and constrictive jewelry because they may further block blood flow.
Give the person warm, nonalcoholic, noncaffeinated fluids to drink.
Apply a dry, sterile bandage, place cotton between any involved fingers or toes (to prevent rubbing), and take the person to a medical facility as soon as possible.
Never rewarm an affected area if there is any chance it may freeze again. This thaw-refreeze cycle is very harmful and leads to disastrous results.
Also, avoid a gradual thaw either in the field or in the transport vehicle. The most effective method is to rewarm the area quickly. Therefore, keep the injured part away from sources of heat until you arrive at a treatment facility where proper rewarming can take place.
Do not rub the frozen area with snow (or anything else). The friction created by this technique will only cause further tissue damage.
Above all, keep in mind that the final amount of tissue destruction is proportional to the time it remains frozen, not to the absolute temperature to which it was exposed. Therefore, rapid transport to a hospital is very important.