American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

Fighting Off Frostbite

Couple walking in snow

When you’re exposed to severe cold, the possibility exists for you to suffer from frostbite — the freezing of skin or tissues.

Frostbite occurs when blood vessels in the skin constrict. With the blood flow decreased, the fluid in and around the skin cells can develop ice crystals. The skin looks waxy and feels solid. As it thaws, it may turn blue or purple and large blisters may appear.

Frostbite also can appear as gray or yellow patches on the affected areas while the skin remains soft and pliable. However, after thawing, the skin looks red and flaky.

“If you find the need to venture outside in severely cold weather, wear sufficient layers of loose-fitting clothing, keeping the particularly sensitive and vulnerable areas like the nose, ears and fingers covered,” says Jeremy Baird, DO, an osteopathic emergency room physician from Jackson, Missouri. “Also, it’s important to stay well-hydrated by consuming warm, non-alcoholic, caffeine-free drinks regularly. Otherwise, not only do you run the risk of suffering from frostbite, but you could become susceptible to hypothermia.”

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors affect your wellbeing. They listen and partner with you to help prevent injury and encourage your body’s natural tendency toward self-healing.

See infographic for more information about frostbite, including the Dos and Don’ts of treatment.




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