A  A  A   Print
Frostbite in ChildrenCongelación

Frostbite in Children

What is frostbite?

Frostbite is damage to the skin from freezing and is due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, usually below 32° F (0° C). It occurs when ice crystals form on the skin or deeper tissue. The most common sites for frostbite are the fingers, toes, ears, nose, chin, and cheeks. The severity depends on several factors including temperature, length of exposure, wind-chill factor, dampness, and type of clothing worn. Children are more prone to frostbite than adults because they lose heat from their skin faster and do not want to come inside when having fun playing outdoors.

What is frostnip?

Frostnip is less severe and can affect the cheeks, ears, nose, fingers, and toes. It can usually be treated at home. The skin may be reddened and feel numb or tingly. If this occurs, bring your child inside and warm the skin by immersing the area in warm water (100° to 105° F or 38° to 41° C) until sensation returns. Do not rub or massage the skin. If symptoms of frostbite occur or warming the skin does not help, call your child's doctor immediately.

What are the symptoms of frostbite?

The following are some of the most common symptoms of frostbite. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Skin is reddened and then becomes white, hard, and swollen

  • Skin burns, tingles or becomes numb

Severe frostbite can result in blisters or ulcers forming and may involve deeper tissues. As frostbite progresses, tissue death and gangrene may occur. The symptoms of frostbite may resemble other conditions and medical problems. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.

First-aid for frostbite

Specific treatment for frostbite will be determined by your child's doctor based on the extent and severity of the injury. In general:

  • Remain calm and reassure your child that you can help. If feet are affected, carry your child; do not allow him or her to walk.

  • Move your child inside to a warm area and put him or her in dry clothes. Call your child's doctor or take your child to the emergency room immediately. Frostbite can cause serious injury and needs immediate medical attention.

  • While waiting for medical assistance:

    • Give your child something warm to drink and wrap a blanket around him or her.

    • Warm the skin by immersing the area in warm water (100° to 105° F or 38° to 41° C) until sensation returns.

    • Do not rub or massage the skin.

    • Do not use direct heat, such as heating pads or fires.

    • Do not place the frostbitten skin in snow to "warm" it.

    • Apply clean cotton or gauze between fingers and toes if they are affected.

    • Do not disturb any blisters.

    • Wrap warmed areas of the skin to prevent further damage.

Further treatment will depend on the extent and severity of injury and may include treatment of skin damage with debridement or surgery.

Prevention of frostbite

To help prevent frostbite, consider the following:

  • Dress your child warmly in layers. Make sure ears, fingers, and toes are well covered.

  • Change clothing if it becomes wet, especially socks and mittens.

  • Bring your child indoors often to warm up and provide a warm snack, soup, or drink.

  • Be alert for early signs of frostnip and frostbite and teach your child what signs to watch for.

 
Today's Interactive Tools
Related Items

The third-party content provided in the Health Library of phoebeputney.com is for informational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. If you or your child has or suspect you may have a health problem, please consult your primary care physician. If you or your child may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 or other emergency health care provider immediately in the United States or the appropriate health agency of your country. For more information regarding site usage, please visit: Privacy Information, Terms of Use or Disclaimer.

Follow us online:

© 2014 Phoebe Putney Health System  |  417 Third Avenue, Albany, Georgia 31701  |  Telephone 877.312.1167

Phoebe Putney Health System is a network of hospitals, family medicine clinics, rehab facilities, auxiliary services, and medical education training facilities. Founded in 1911,
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital (the flagship hospital) is one of Georgia's largest comprehensive regional medical centers. From the beginning, Phoebe's mission and vision
has been to bring the finest medical talent and technology to the citizens of Southwest Georgia, and to serve all citizens of the community regardless of ability to pay.