Stages Of Frostbite
There are three degrees, or stages, of frostbite: frostnip, superficial frostbite, and deep frostbite. Frostnip is the least serious form of frostbite; deep frostbite the most serious. If frostnip goes untreated, it can quickly progress to the more serious forms. Recognizing and treating the first signs of frostnip may prevent the development of the more serious forms of frostbite.
Frostnip is the "warning sign" of frostbite. In frostnip, the skin reddens then turns white. The person may also experience numbness in the affected area. The treatment for frostnip is simple; get the person out of the cold and gently warm the affected area. The warming procedure does not require special equipment; if the hands are affected, placing the hands under the armpits may be sufficient; if the fingers are affected, blowing warm air on the fingers should be enough to warm them.
The next two stages of frostbite may set in if frostnip is not treated promptly. In superficial frostbite, only the top layer of the skin is frozen. The top layer of skin is rigid, but the layers beneath the frozen layer are soft to the touch. The affected area appears white. In deep frostbite, the deeper layers of skin and tissue are frozen. The area feels rigid, and if the area is gently pressed no "give" or softness can be felt. The color of the affected area progresses from white to a grayish-yellow color and finally to a grayish blue color. In severe cases of deep frostbite, muscles, bones, and even the organs may become frozen.