Frostnip Vs. Frostbite: Know The Difference

One Needs Attention, The Other Needs a Doctor

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has some advice for dealing with the effects of extreme cold, and how to recognize the difference between frostnip and frostbite.

Frostnip is a mild form of frostbite, where the skin could appear yellowish or white, feels soft with a painful tingling or burning sensation. You’re advised to warm the area gradually using a warm hand or water, but don’t rub the affected area. Avoid using direct heat which could burn the skin.

The Health Unit says frostbite is more common on hands, legs, and fingers. It can lead to serious health complications. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention. Frostbite causes skin to turn pale grey with a waxy texture. Numbness and localized pain, swelling and blistering are also symptoms to watch for. Do not rub the area, it can cause more damage; warm it up slowly with a warm compress, or use your own body to re-warm the area. If toes are frostbitten, do not try to walk on them.

Exposure to cold temperatures can cause serious or life-threatening health problems. During extreme cold, those most at risk include infants under one year of age, individuals 65 years of age or older, the homeless, outdoor workers, sport enthusiasts (skiers, ice skaters), people living in homes that are poorly insulated or without heat, and people living in homes without power (usually due to other weather-related events such as a winter storm).