What do I need to know about caring for someone with frostbite?

To care for frostbite, handle the area gently.
  • Remove wet clothing and jewelry, if possible, from the affected area.
  • Never rub a frostbitten area. Rubbing causes further damage to soft tissues. Do not attempt to rewarm the frostbitten area if there is a chance that it might refreeze or if you are close to a medical facility.
  • For minor frostbite, rapidly rewarm the affected part using skin-to-skin contact such as with a warm hand.
  • To care for a more serious injury, gently soak it in water not warmer than about 105° F.

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  • If you do not have a thermometer, test the water temperature yourself. If the temperature is uncomfortable to your touch, it is too warm.
  • Keep the frostbitten part in the water until normal color returns and it feels warm (20 to 30 minutes).
  • Loosely bandage the area with a dry, sterile dressing.

  • If fingers or toes are frostbitten, place cotton or gauze between them. Do not break any blisters.
  • Take precautions to prevent hypothermia. Monitor the person’s condition, and if you see that the person is going into shock, give care accordingly.
  • Do not give ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) when caring for frostbite.
If you are with someone who has frostbite symptoms, get them out of the cold as soon as possible. Place the affected area in warm water, and avoid rubbing the frostbitten skin because this can cause tissue damage. If fingers or toes are frostbitten, put gauze between them gently to keep them separated. Don't break blisters. Keep the person warm because they may also be suffering from hypothermia and seek medical attention immediately.
Caring for someone with frostbite primarily involves following a physician's instructions and keeping the affected area from being exposed to the elements. Care may also focus on pain management and allowing the areas to heal.

Continue Learning about Frostbite

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.