Symptoms and Signs of Frostbite

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 7/29/2022

Doctor's Notes on Frostbite

Frostbite refers to severe damage to tissues that is caused by prolonged exposure to extremely cold temperatures. It results from the formation of ice crystals within cells, rupturing the cells and leading to cell death. There are four stages of frostbite.

Signs and symptoms of frostbite include:

  • pain in the affected area, 
  • numbness, 
  • burning, 
  • tingling, 
  • pale skin, and 
  • the development of clear blisters

Associated symptoms of deep frostbite may include:

  • complete loss of sensation in the affected area; 
  • skin changes such as a pale, yellowish, bluish, gray, or mottled skin color; 
  • blood-filled blisters on the skin; and 
  • a firm, solid feel to the affected area.

What Is the Treatment for Frostbite?

Treatment for frostbite may include the following:

  • Rewarming of the affected body part, usually done gradually with a warm water bath
  • Wound cleaning and care
  • Medications to control pain
  • Antibiotics to prevent or treat infection
  • Drugs to destroy blood clots in severe cases
  • Surgical removal of damaged tissue, after some time has elapsed
  • Amputation in severe cases

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.