frostbite can usually be thawed with body heat. Hands
wet, cold temperatures just above freezing. It is often
can be rewarmed by placing them under the armpit,
associated with limited motion of the extremities and
against the abdomen, or between the thighs. Feet can be
water-soaked clothing. Remember that the temperature
rewarmed by using armpit or abdomen of a buddy. Other
does not need to be below 32°F (0°C) to cause this
areas of superficial frostbite can be rewarmed by
warmwater immersion, skin to skin contact, or covered
In the early stages, the feet and toes are pale and feel
hot-water bottles. NEVER RUB a frostbitten area.
cold, numb, and stiff. Walking becomes difficult. When
preventive action is not taken, the feet swell and become
painful. In extreme cases, the flesh dies and amputation
of a foot or of a leg maybe necessary.
In deep frostbite, the freezing reaches into the deep
tissue layers. There are ice crystals in the entire
TREATMENT. In treating immersion feet (or
thickness of the extremity. The skin does not move over
hands), handle the injured parts very gently. They should
the bony ridges and feels hard and solid.
not be rubbed or massaged.
TREATMENT. The objectives of treatment are to
Get the victim off his feet as soon as possible.
protect the frozen area from further injury, to thaw the
Remove wet shoes, socks, and gloves to improve
affected area rapidly, and to be prepared to respond to
circulation. Do not rupture blisters or apply salves or
circulatory or respiratory difficulties.
ointments. The feet may be cleansed carefully with soap
and water, dried, elevated, and exposed to dry air. Keep
Carefully assess and treat other injuries first.
the victim warm and transport him to a medical facility
Constantly monitor the pulse and breathing of the victim
as soon as possible. Always evacuate immersion foot
since respiratory and heart problems can develop
victims by litter.
rapidly. Be ready to administer CPR.
Make no attempt to thaw the frostbitten area when
there is a possibility of refreezing. Freeze-thaw-freeze
will result in extension of the injury and may result in
Frostbite occurs when ice crystals form in the skin
or deeper tissues after exposure to temperatures of 32°F
(0°C) or lower. Depending upon temperature, altitude,
Treat all victims with injuries to feet or legs as litter
and wind speed, the exposure time necessary to produce
cases. When this is not possible, it has been proven that
frostbite varies from a few minutes to several hours. The
walking does not lessen the chances of successful
areas most commonly affected are the face and
treatment as long as the limb has not been thawed out.
When adequate protection from further cold
The symptoms of frostbite are progressive. Victims
exposure is available, prepare the victim for rewarming
generally incur this injury without being acutely aware
by removing all constricting items of clothing, such as
of it. Initially, the affected skin reddens, and there is an
gloves, boots, and socks. Boots and clothing frozen on
uncomfortable coldness. With continued heat loss, there
the body should be thawed by immersing them in warm
is a numbness of the affected area because of reduced
water before removal.
circulation. As ice crystals form, the frozen extremity
Rapidly rewarm frozen areas by immersion in water
appears white, yellow-white, or mottled blue-white, and
at 100°F to 105°F (38°C to 41°C). Keep the water warm
it is cold, hard, and insensitive to touch or pressure.
by adding fresh hot water, but do not pour it directly on
Frostbite is classified as superficial or deep,
the injured area. Ensure that the frozen area is
depending on the extent of tissue involvement.
completely surrounded by water; do not let it rest on the
side or bottom of the tub. After rewarming has been
completed, pat the area dry with a soft towel. Avoid
pressure, rubbing, or constriction of the injured area
In superficial frostbite, the surface of the skin feels
Keep the skin dry with sterile dressings, and place cotton
hard, but the underlying tissue is soft, allowing it to
between the toes and fingers to avoid their sticking
move over bony ridges. This is evidence that only the
skin and the region just below it are involved.
The general morale and comfort of the victim may
TREATMENT. A minor case of superficial frostbite
improve by giving him hot, stimulating fluids, such as
is fairly common and serves as a warning. Superficial
tea or coffee. Do not allow the victim to smoke or use