Frostbite describes the appearance of the skin when it has been damaged by unprotected exposure to extreme cold. During exposure to the cold, blood vessels close to the skin on our extremities will constrict, causing the skin to harden and change color. The affected skin may at the same time ache, but not register feeling when touched. If not treated quickly, extremities may suffer irreparable harm.


  • Stage 1 : burning sensation, yellow or white skin coloration
  • Stage 2 : red, swollen skin, blisters and peeling
  • Stage 3: skin becomes waxy and hard, begins dying, turning black

Who is at risk?

Anyone exposed to extreme cold is at risk for frostbite if not properly protected. Diabetics are at higher risk because of pre-existing circulation problems that will cause symptoms to worsen faster.


In early stages of frostbite, symptoms will reverse after gradual warming. Since infected or open skin is susceptible to gangrene, physician assistance should be obtained for any Stage 2 or Stage 3 symptoms. Affected limbs should be isolated and warmed gradually while seeking emergency help.

Emergency Warning Signs: When should I see a doctor?

Emergency medical care is absolutely necessary to diagnose treatment in all but the mildest of frostbite cases.

Treatment for frostbite is available now at OnPoint Urgent Care in Aurora, Highlands Ranch, or Lone Tree Colorado.

For more information on frostbite, see the following websites:

WebMD Basics on Frostbite

eMedicine with Frosbite Overview

Disclaimer: The links above are to sites independent of The pages will open in a new browser window. The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your doctor. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding your specific medical questions, treatments, therapies, and other needs.