page banner image

Did You Know? Frostbite

July 9, 2019

DidYouKnow logo symbol

Frostbite can be treated at one of our wound centers.

What is Frostbite

Frostbite is an injury caused by the freezing and crystallization of fluids in the interstitial and cellular spaces due to prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures. Frostbite can occur with exposure of the skin to extreme cold or in combination with high winds that results in vasoconstriction. As a result of the reduced blood flow, sufficient heat is not delivered to the tissues of the body, which results in the formation of ice crystals (Zonnoor, 2018).

It is an uncommon event that can occur from exposure to temperatures below -4 degrees C and can lead to potential serious tissue damage and necrosis. This in turn can result in debilitating amputations in otherwise healthy people.

The pathophysiological mechanisms of frostbite have marked similarities to those seen in thermal burns, ischemia/reperfusion injuries and crush injuries. These injuries are commonly treated with adjunctive HBO. Learn more about HBO.

Stages of Frostbite

Normal Skin

Normal skin illustration

Normal skin without cold damage.


Frostnip illustration

Frostnip is mild frostbite that irritates the skin, causing redness and a cold feeling followed by numbness. Frostnip doesn’t permanently damage the skin and can be treated with first-aid measures. 

Superficial Frostbite

Superficial frostnip illustration

With superficial frostbite, your skin feels warm, a sign of serious skin involvement. A fluid-filled blister may appear 24 to 36 hours after rewarming the skin. 

Deep Frostbite

Deep frostbite illustration

With deep frostbite, you may experience numbness. Joints or muscles may no longer work. Large blisters form 24 to 48 hours after rewarming. Afterward, the area turns black and hard as the tissue dies.

A wound healing center can help you!

Our wound healing centers treat all wounds, but specializes in those that are hard to heal.

Our treatment plans are designed to complement the care your own physician provides, ensuring that your health care team is always working together to provide the treatment that’s right for you.

Ask your physician for a referral to the nearest location.