Home treatment first aid for cold exposure

If small areas of your body (ears, face, nose, fingers, or toes) are really cold or frozen, try these first aid measures to warm the areas.

  • Avoid activities that can further damage cold-injured skin.
    • Do not rub or massage frozen skin.
    • Do not rewarm frozen skin if refreezing is possible. Wait until you reach shelter. The injury will be worse if your skin freezes, thaws, and then refreezes.
    • Do not walk on frozen feet if possible. However, it is better to walk on frozen feet than to thaw your feet if there is a chance they will refreeze.
    • Do not put snow on the area or pack snow around the limb.
  • Warm small areas of the body by:
    • Blowing warm air onto cold hands.
    • Tucking hands or feet inside warm clothing next to bare skin. Place chilled fingers in an armpit.
    • Cupping cold ears with warm hands.
    • Putting cold hands, feet, or ears in warm water [104°F (40°C) to 108°F (42°C)] for 15 to 30 minutes. Do not use water above 108°F (42°C). Warm towels can be used to warm the genital area but be careful to not burn the skin.
    • Using a hot water bottle covered with a cloth or a heating pad on a low setting. Be careful to not burn your skin.
    • Being aware that if you (or the person) sit in front of a heater or a fire to warm up, there is a greater chance of getting burned. This is because normal feeling is lost in cold-injured skin and you may not know when to move away from the heater or fire.
  • Protect the cold or frozen body part from further cold exposure and bruising. Pad frozen fingers or toes. Gently wrap fingers or toes in soft, dry material, such as cotton or gauze.

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