The stages of frostbite
The first stage of frostbite is often called “frostnip” and begins with redness and a pins-and-needles feeling. Get out of the cold quickly at this time to avoid further damage to the skin.
A mild nip could be warmed up with your own body heat; try sticking those fingers into your armpit, for example.
Rewarm those red toes with a soak in warm — never hot — water for up to 30 minutes. Since you won’t be able to tell with those zapped toes, test the water with another part of the body to be sure it’s comfortable. Rewarm ears, nose and cheeks with warm cloths; re-soak and reapply repeatedly.
Be prepared for a bit of pain as the frostbitten areas come back to life. You’ll know when warming is complete when the skin is soft and all feeling has returned. But don’t use stoves or warming pads, the CDC warns. Those numb bits can’t tell the temperature, and they could easily burn as they warm up.
Superficial frostbite is the second stage. It’s known as second-degree frostbite and begins when your skin begins to turn pale white or grayish-yellow instead of red. It might even begin to appear blue. Crystals of ice are beginning to form in the skin, and it may become hard and numb to sensation. Some people say it feels “waxy.”
Because the pain and redness are subsiding, unfortunately, people often don’t realize what is happening to them.
ut soon, the skin might warm and begin to swell, which is a sign that damage to tissue is occurring. This is the time at which prompt medical treatment is needed to prevent further, more serious damage.
Immediate rewarming is key, but it should be done carefully by trained medical professionals, who will immediately wrap the injured area to protect it. At times, blisters filled with fluid can develop, and the skin can sting, burn and swell dramatically.
Deep frostbite is the next stage, in which the skin can appear blue and mottled, and numb to pain and cold. Blood-filled blisters can form. Muscles next to the area might fail to work properly. At this point you are in danger of blood clots and will need anti-clotting medications to increase blood flow to the area.
Medical attention is crucial at this stage to avoid amputation of the injured tissue. Depending on the severity of the injury, the tissue can look black and feel hard after it’s rewarmed. If the tissue has died, a process called gangrene, then the dead areas may have to be excised or amputated. At times, there can be long-lasting damage to muscles, tendons, nerves