University of Missouri Extension

Robert E. Thomas
Information Specialist

Published: January 25, 2010
Story Source: Karen Funkenbusch, 573-882-2731

Parents should watch for frostnip or frostbite when kids play in cold weather

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Sometimes it is hard to get kids inside when they are playing in snow, but during cold weather it's important for children to come indoors at regular intervals.

"Children are at greater risk than adults for frostbite because they lose heat from their skin more rapidly than adults," said Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri Extension safety specialist.

Frostbite is the freezing of skin due to prolonged exposure to cold. Frostbitten skin is white, waxy and feels numb and hard. Frostnip, a less severe condition, is characterized by reddened skin that feels numb or tingly.

Frostnip usually can be treated at home, but frostbite requires immediate medical attention, Funkenbusch said.

To prevent frostnip and frostbite, parents should dress children in layers and make sure they get out of the cold at regular intervals, she said. The colder it is, the more frequently children should come indoors.

"If there is a high wind-chill factor or if the air is bitterly cold, brief exposure of uncovered body parts can result in frostbite in a short time," she said.

Bring you child indoors immediately if you suspect frostnip. Remove wet clothing. Immerse chilled body parts in warm but not hot water until sensation returns.

If you suspect frostbite, get the child in dry clothing and hurry to an emergency room. If you cannot get to a hospital quickly, give the child a warm drink. Immerse frozen area in warm water or apply warm compresses.

Do not use a heating pad or other forms of direct heat.

Do not rub frostbitten skin. This can further damage skin and the underlying tissue and blood vessels.

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