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What causes frostbite?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Frostbite is caused by the freezing of the skin and tissue just below the skin. This can happen as a result of direct exposure to freezing temperature or contact with something frozen. In either case, the body loses heat and the tissue in the skin freezes.

Frostbite is the result of prolonged exposure to cold weather or by direct contact with extremely cold materials, such as frozen metal. When the body is exposed to extremely cold temperatures, it loses heat quickly. The body attempts to protect itself by directing blood flow to organs rather than other body parts. Without the warmth of the blood, the skin and underlying tissue freeze. When the cause is direct contact, heat from the body is pulled toward the cold object, which causes a drop in skin temperature and leads to freezing.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.