Frostnip is the phase prior to the start of frostbite. Even though it is an injury, the skin remains pliable and there is no lasting tissue damage unless it progresses to frostbite.
The condition arises from vasoconstriction which can progress into frostbite if the bodily tissues are frozen. Once the condition progresses, the impairment can be irreversible.
The condition occurs if the skin is exposed to extreme cold temperatures for a continuous span of time. Due to exposure, the body limits the flow of blood to the extremities to conserve heat. The nose, ears, fingers, cheeks and toes are likely to be affected.
What are the indications?
The indications of frostnip are relatively milder than frostbite. Being able to recognize the signs is vital to prevent it from progressing to frostbite.
It is important to note that frostnip can irritate the skin. The affected site might prickle, sting or burn along with a deep cold sensation. This can progress into a tingling or numb sensation. The skin might turn reddened, white or yellow, but the skin is still pliable and feels soft.
Most experience a strong burning sensation as the skin starts to warm up and thaw.
Management of frostnip
Frostnip can be managed by gradually warming up the skin. If possible, move the individual away from the cold. Transfer the individual indoors and put on dry, warm clothes.
If this is not possible, protect the skin from further exposure until able to do so and avoid thawing the skin if it is likely to be frozen again.
The skin can be rewarmed using warm water to allow the skin to gradually return to its healthy state. Do not apply direct heat such as a heating pad. If the affected area can be moved, it is recommended to do so as they rewarm. There is a tingling or burning feeling as the skin rewarms and there is an increase in redness.
Apply an aloe vera gel on the site 2-3 times a day to lessen the discomfort and inflammation. An over-the-counter pain medication can be given to ease the pain and inflammation.
More Information / Disclaimer
The information posted on this page on frostnip is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize the signs by taking a standard first aid course with Mississauga First Aid.