Family Health Guide

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First Aid: Frost Nip and Frost Bite

Frostnip, an early precursor to frostbite, is caused by prolonged exposure to cold and usually appears on exposed extremities, like the nose, fingertips, and toes. Watch for redness and feel for extreme coldness; your child may also complain that the area is numb or tingling. Head inside at once, and have him change out of any wet clothing, including socks. Take the chill off problem spots by submerging them in tepid water.                     

Frostbitten skin looks white or very pale and has a waxy, hard appearance. Call the pediatrician or go to the ER if you suspect frostbite. The same warm water treatment can help to thaw the skin and ease numbness but make sure this is done in a warm place. If water isn't available, try to place the affected areas close to the body; for example, frostbitten fingers can be tucked under the arm. Never rub or massage these areas as it can cause more damage to the tissue. Do not use a stove, heating pad or fire as part of the treatment -- a child with frostbite cannot feel his skin and can be burned easily.  Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.