Freezing from Your Nose to Your Toes: First Aid for Frostbite and Hypothermia

Posted by:

With some of the coldest windchill temperatures coming tonight and tomorrow, The Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps urges everyone to be aware of the risk and signs of frostbite and hypothermia.  The elderly and babies are most vulnerable to hypothermia, so please check on your neighbors!  For example, should an elderly person fall inside their home and not be able to get up, they can quickly succumb to hypothermia.  The cooler temperature of the floor, as well as inactivity, will drop their body temperature.


What to look for: White, waxy or gray-yellow patches on skin. Skin will feel cold and numb. Deep frostbite causes waxy and pale skin. Affected area will feel cold and hard. Large blisters may appear after rewarming.

What to do:

  • Get victim out of the cold and into a warm area.
  • Remove constrictive clothes and jewelry which could be impairing circulation.
  • Upon seeing signs of frostbite, find medical help immediately.
  • Put dry, sterile gauze between fingers and toes to get rid of moisture.
  • Elevate affected area to help reduce swelling and pain.
  • If you cannot get to a medical facility, then you can rewarm the area with lukewarm water (not hot). Immerse the affected area for 20 to 45 minutes until the tissue is soft.

What not to do:

  • Don’t use water hotter than 105 degrees or colder than 100 degrees.
  • Don’t rub or massage the affected area.
  • Don’t rub with ice or snow.
  • Don’t apply a heat source directly to frostbitten skin.


What to look for: Change in mental status, shivering, cool abdomen and low body temperature. Sometimes those affected with have rigid muscles, dark or puffy skin, an irregular heartbeat and unconsciousness.

What to do:

  • Get victim out of the cold and get medical attention.
  • Cover their body (including head) with blankets, pillows, towels or newspapers.
  • Replace wet clothing with dry clothing.
  • Handle them gently. Rough handling can cause cardiac arrest.
  • Keep victim in flat position.

Call 911 should you suspect someone is suffering from hypothermia.

The Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation.


As seen on the Wilton Patch:–first-aid-for-frostbite-and-hypothermia