Damage to the skin and underlying tissues caused by extreme cold - Occurs when body needs
heat elsewhere - Body redirects blood flow from extremities to protect internal organs


1. First Degree (Frostnip) -This is a partial freeze of the skin · Redness, stinging, burning, pain or prickly
  sensation ("pins and needles") · Followed by disappearing pain and a sudden blanching of the skin
  (it  turns white, gray or waxy looking) · Skin may spot or blotch · Skin is firm to touch but resilient
  underneath · On thawing, there is aching, pain, or brownness, the skin may peel off and remain cold
  for some time

2. Second Degree (Superficial Frostbite, Frostbite) - All layers of the skin have frozen · All signs and
symptoms of first degree frostbite can occur · No pain, may feel dead or ?like a stump? · Numbness,
limb may be immobile or very hard to move · Tissue is hard to the touch including underneath layers
· After thawing (3-20 days), pain, large blisters, sweating · Black or discolored skin sheds off leaving  
tender new skin

3. Third Degree (Severe Frostbite) - Skin and underneath tissues are completely frozen
· The full thickness of the skin is involved · Purplish blisters (blood-filled), dusky blue skin
discoloration · Loss of sensation, area feels like a "block of wood" · After thawing, aching and
throbbing continue for 2 to 5 weeks

4.  Fourth Degree (Severe Frostbite) - Complete thickness of skin, fat, muscle, bone are frozen
· Swelling and sweating occur in the affected area · Black, hard scabs form, surrounded by
blisters that shed off leaving ulcers · After thawing, affected skin becomes black and shriveled or
mummified · Gangrene may develop · Amputation may be necessary


1. Be aware of factors that can contribute to frostbite
2. Cover exposed skin, prevent heat loss with proper insulation
3. Guard against wind-chill and moisture
4. Maintain adequate core temperature, good nutrition, drink water, keep good metabolic rate
5. Use buddy system to check face, nose and ears for frostnip and frostbite
6. Periodically make faces, exercise ears with hands, keep feet and hands moving
7. Do not wear restrictive clothing, use the layering system
8. If caught in a severe snowstorm, find shelter early and quickly
9. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY - Sensations of intermittent stinging, burning, throbbing and aching
are all early signs of frostbite
10. REMEMBER - when the pain goes away, you are in danger of severe injury from frostbite, If
you have not corrected the problem by then you are in trouble and need to correct it

First Aid Care

If immediate medical help is available

It is best to wrap the affected areas in sterile dressings (remember to separate affected fingers and
and transport the victim to an emergency medical department for further care

If NO immediate medical help is available - re-warming first aid may be given

1. DO NOT thaw out a frostbitten area if it cannot be kept thawed. Refreezing may make injury
even worse
DO NOT use direct dry heat
(such as a radiator, campfire, heating pad, or hair dryer) to
thaw the frostbitten areas.
(direct heat can burn the tissues that are already damaged)
DO NOT rub or massage the affected area
DO NOT disturb blisters on frostbitten skin
DO NOT smoke or drink alcoholic beverages
(interferes with blood circulation)

2. Constantly look for signs of hypothermia and care accordingly

3. Remove any constricting clothes, jewelry and wet clothing

4. Exercise affected area to promote circulation

5. Warm victim's affected area, examples - place victim's hands in armpits or crotch, blow warm
air on victim's nose, place victim's feet inside your shirt against your chest

6. Insure that insulation is adequate to prevent further injury

7. DO NOT attempt to thaw frostbitten limbs in the field
(Thawing only risks additional injury)

8. Constantly look for signs of hypothermia and care accordingly

9. Once injury is thawed victim must be carried
(HOWEVER, if partial thawing occurs while
walking, the victim should continue to walk out to avoid refreezing the part)

10. Stay With The Victim until medical help arrives

11. Seek professional medical assistance as soon as possible

Once in Camp or other facility and still WITH NO immediate medical help available

12. Immerse the affected areas in a warm (NEVER HOT) circulating water bath for about 15-30
minutes water
(recommended 104° to 108° F) or repeatedly apply warm cloths to affected
areas for 20 to 30 minutes. Warming is complete when the skin is soft and sensation returns
(area becomes flushed)

13. Thaw frozen boots, gloves, ect. while on the affected area and then gently remove them or cut
them away carefully

14. Dry area thoroughly and gently

15. Apply dry, sterile dressing to areas
(and between frostbitten fingers or toes to keep them
separated) (if no dressing, cotton fabric more suitable)

16. Dress entire part with suitable bandages. Move thawed areas as little as possible

17. If the frostbite is extensive, give warm drinks to the victim in order to replace lost fluids

18. Constantly look for signs of
hypothermia and care accordingly

19. Transport victim to hospital or medical facility as soon as possible

20. Stay With The Victim until medical help arrives

21. Seek professional medical assistance as soon as possible
Archery, Indoor Range
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Your Body and the Cold
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Trench Foot
Please Note:
All information on is for training and educational purposes only.
For specific medical advice, diagnoses, treatment, and care consult your doctor or a medical professional

Yahoo! Health Encyclopedia, Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M, Inc., Copyright 2002 Yahoo Inc.
Boy Scout Handbook, Copyright 1998 by the Boy Scouts of America
Field Book, Copyright 1967, 1984 by the Boy Scouts of America
Okpik: Cold-Weather Camping, Copyright 1990 by the Boy Scouts of America
OA Guide to Winter Camping, Copyright 1995 Rick Curtis, Outdoor Action Program, Princeton University