What Is Frostbite?

Sometimes when your fingers or ears get very cold, even numb, you might say that they’re frostbitten. But frostbite is really very serious, and requires a doctor’s care.

In very cold weather, the skin on your fingers, toes, or ears may become so cold that blood stops flowing to it. This is your body’s way of saving warm blood for the rest of its cells. But when blood stops reaching any body cells, so does oxygen. And without oxygen, these cells begin to die.

Serious frostbite can lead to gangrene, the death of tissues due to lack of oxygen. Once a part of the body is infected with gangrene, it cannot be saved. People have lost fingers and toes to the gangrene that sometimes follows frostbite.

If you think your fingers or ears are frostbitten, you should see a doctor right away. The doctor treats frostbite by applying warmth gently to the frostbitten area.