Skip to main content
Go to homepage

Print Page

First Aid: Frostbite

Exposure to below-freezing temperatures can cause frostbite, a rare but serious condition that needs emergency medical care. Frostbite can affect any area of the skin, and in extreme cold can develop within minutes.

First Aid

Signs and Symptoms

  • aching pain or numbness, most often on hands, feet, face, and ears
  • skin that feels hard and waxy, with a white or grayish yellow color

What to Do

If you think your child has frostbite, call the doctor right away. Then:

  • Bring your child indoors immediately. Do not try to thaw frostbite unless you're in a warm place (warming and then re-exposing frozen skin to cold can cause permanent damage).
  • Remove wet clothing.
  • Don't rub frostbitten areas — treat them gently.
  • Don't use dry heat — such as a fireplace, oven, or heating pad — to thaw frostbite.
  • Don't break any blisters.
  • Warm the frostbitten parts in warm (not hot) water for about 30 minutes.
  • Place clean cotton balls between frostbitten fingers and toes after they've been warmed.
  • Loosely wrap warmed areas with clean bandages to prevent refreezing.
  • Give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.

Get Emergency Medical Care if Your Child Has:

  • an area of skin that is turning white and hard

Think Prevention!

Stay updated on weather forecasts. Keep kids warm and dry in cold weather. Loose-fitting, layered warm clothes are best. Have kids wear well-insulated boots, thick socks, hats, scarves, and mittens. Ice packs applied directly to the skin can cause frostbite — always cover ice packs with a cloth before applying to the skin.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date Reviewed: 02-07-2018

Lea este articulo en Español

What next?

Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
There are 10 nurses in the picture.

And we have many more pediatric primary care providers in Northeast Ohio. You can meet some of them here.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The five differences are:
– Phone color
– Coat pocket
– Stethoscope earpiece color
– Stethoscope bell dot
– Clipboard paper color

Need help finding a doctor, choosing a location or getting a general question about Akron Children's answered? Call us or fill out the form and we'll help in any way we can.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The two matching doctors are 9 and 14.

With virtual visits, you can see our pediatric experts from the comfort of home or wherever you are.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The correct path:
The Correct Path
We offer many ways to get pediatric care all over Northeast Ohio. Use this page to find the right kind of care and the most convenient location for you.