emergency medicine at ncemi   More Emergency Medicine Resources
Back to table of contents

11.04 Frostbite and Frostnip


Presentation

Frostnip occurs when skin surfaces such as the tip of the nose and ears are exposed to an environment cold enouth to freeze the epidermis. These prominent exposed surfaces become blanched and develop paresthesias and numbness. As they are rewarmed, they become erythematous and at times painful.

Superficial frostbite can be either a partial or a full thickness freezing of the dermis. The frozen surfaces appear white and feel soft and doughy. With rewarming these areas will become erythematous and edematous with severe pain. Blistering will occur within 24-48 hours with deeper partial thickness frostbite.

What to do:

What not to do:

Discussion

Frostbite is more common in persons exposed to cold at high altitudes. The areas of the body most likely to suffer are those farthest from the trunk or large muscles: ear lobes, nose, cheeks, hands and feet. Touching cold metal with bare hands can cause immediate frostbite, as can the spilling of gasoline or other volatile liquids on the skin at very low temperatures. Of course, prevention is the best "treatment" for frostbits. Heavily insulated, waterproof clothing gives the best frostbite prevention.

Table of Contents
from Buttaravoli & Stair: COMMON SIMPLE EMERGENCIES
Longwood Information LLC 4822 Quebec St NW Washington DC 20016-3229
1.202.237.0971 fax 1.202.244.8393 electra@clark.net
Emergency Medicine at NCEMI   More emergency medicine resources
Write to us at NCEMI
Craig Feied, MD
Mark Smith, MD
Jon Handler, MD
Michael Gillam, MD