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Frostbite occurs when tissue freezes. The best prevention is to avoid severe weather. If you're caught in extremely cold weather, pay attention to your head and extremities, such as fingers, toes, ears, and nose. Wear a face cover if the temperature is below 0°F (-18°C). If you experience any symptom of frostbite, treat it immediately.

Contributing Factors

  • Extreme cold
  • Wet clothing, or lack of protective clothing and gear
  • Wind chill
  • Poor circulation

Preventing Frostbite

  • Wear clothing to protect vulnerable areas, especially appendages.
  • Avoid fabrics that retain moisture.
  • Before exposure, avoid alcohol and smoking, and get plenty of food and rest.
  • In prolonged exposure, find shelter and stay active.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Frostbite

  • Skin turns off-white.
  • Prickly or tingling feeling occurs as ice crystals form.
  • Pain may be present initially, then disappears as frostbite progresses.
  • In severe cases, victim experiences a loss of feeling in the affected area.

Treating Frostbite

  • Warm the affected area with body heat but avoid rubbing the area—it can damage tissue.
  • Don't use hot water or other external heat sources, which could cause burns.
  • Wrap with warm, dry clothing.
  • Get to a warm shelter.
  • Drink hot liquids.
  • Get medical attention.
Wind chill factor chart showing wind speed and air temperature - Frostbite occurs in 15 minutes or less

Wind chill is given in the body of this table.

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