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First aid for Frostbite

Posted on 26 Feb, 2018 - No comments yet!

With the predicted snowstorms heading over from Siberia this week, I know many people are really worried about managing when its this cold.

Frostbite usually occurs to the extremities of the body: toes, fingers, nose, ears and lips. It is caused by exposure to extreme cold causing damage to the tissues. Early stages of frostbite may be referred to as “frostnip.”

When our body is cold the blood is redirected from the extremities which is what makes them especially at risk. As the areas of tissue become colder, the fluid inside can start to freeze into icy crystals.

Who does it affect?

Most at risk are the very young and the very old. This is because they can not regulate their body temperature as well. Others at risk include those exposed to the elements such as.

  • Homeless people,
  • Outdoor workers,
  • Those injured and stranded outside,
  • Altitude sports men and women such as mountain climbers, or skiers,
  • Those with circulation problems.
How do we prevent it?

Try to wear multiple thinner layers of clothing as this can help trap the heat in. Wear thick socks and insulated shoes or boots. Remember to check they are well fitting as if not your at increased risk of blisters and sore patches! Ensure your wearing a hat that covers your ears and thick gloves or mittens will also help.

Whenever your travelling by car, ensure you have plenty of warm blankets in the car incase you break down or are involved in an accident. If out walking ensure you have a phone on you and people know when to expect you back.

If at any point your clothes become wet it is vital you change them for dryer versions as soon as possible.


It is essential the person is seen by a medical professional. If the frostbite seems minor call 111 or seek advice from GP. If more severe or your concerned go straight to accident and emergency. The tissue will need to be assessed and treatment begun by a medical professional. In the meantime:

  • Replace wet clothing for drier ones
  • Move to a warmer environment if possible
  • Wrap extra blankets or coats around the person
  • You could try wrapping the frost bitten areas in extra clothing if tolerated.


  • Place direct heat on the areas
  • Give the person alcohol or allow them to smoke
  • Do not rub at the areas as it can cause more damage.
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