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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Injuries and Wounds > Frostbite: Treatment & Monitoring
      Category : Health Centers > Injuries and Safety


Alternate Names : Frozen Fingers, Toes, OR Nose, COLD-Induced Injury

Frostbite | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

What are the treatments for the injury?

If a person may have frostbite, it is important to:

  • bring him or her to a warmer spot
  • remove any wet or constricting clothing
  • thaw the area by putting it into warm water that is less than 110 F for at least 20 minutes, if possible. This thawing may cause the affected person pain or discomfort, but it is important.
  • apply gauze dressings to the frostbitten area, if available, wrapping each toe or finger separately
  • move the area as little as possible
  • try to keep the area warm so that it will not freeze again
  • seek medical attention
  • There are several things to avoid when treating frostbite. A person should not:

  • rub or massage the affected area
  • break any blisters that are present
  • use hot water or direct heat such as hair dryers, radiators or fires to warm the frostbitten areas
  • A healthcare provider will continue treatment as needed. Pain and infection of the infected skin areas are fairly common problems from the injury. Pain may require prescription-strength pain medications in some cases. Antibiotics may be required for infection, which are usually given topically.

    Surgical treatment may be needed in some cases, but is often delayed. This is because most severe cold injury is more superficial than it seems, and often causes less tissue loss than predicted. Sometimes the frostbitten areas are large or severe enough to require a skin graft or even amputation of the affected area.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    All medications cause side effects, such as allergic reactions or stomach upset. Surgery carries a risk of infection, bleeding or even death.

    What happens after treatment for the injury?

    After recovery, a person can generally return to normal activities.

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    Frostbite: Prevention & Expectations


    Author: James Broomfield, MD
    Reviewer: Adam Brochert, MD
    Date Reviewed: 07/27/01

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