January ushered in the new year and record breaking cold in the Baltimore region. And when the temperatures plunge into the single digits, going outside can not only be uncomfortable, but also dangerous, because of an increased risk for frostbite.

Frostbite is, literally, the freezing of skin tissue, which can occur in bitter cold. Most likely to be affected are exposed areas (nose, ears, chin, cheeks), and extremities (fingers and toes). The condition can cause lasting damage. Possible complications include long-term numbness and joint pain, infection, tetanus and, in very severe cases, gangrene, which can lead to amputation.

Folks with poor circulation can be more susceptible to frostbite. That’s because extreme cold causes the blood vessels to constrict. Infants and older adults, who may have trouble producing and retaining body heat, are also at higher risk.

And it can happen faster than you might guess. When the wind chill is in the negative numbers, frostbite can begin in as short a time as 30 minutes.


  • Superficial frostbite: numbness, burning, tingling, itching, white appearance
  • Deep frostbite: blisters, yellowish or blackish, waxy appearance, unusually firm skin

Beware! Often, sufferers don’t realize they have frostbite because the affected area is numb. Have buddies share the responsibility of watching for symptoms in each other.


  • Dress in loose, warm layers.
  • Wear mittens instead of gloves (fingers help to warm each other).
  • Make sure head, nose, ears and face are covered.
  • Stay dry, wear waterproof boots.
  • At the first sign of redness or pain, get out of the cold.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Keep moving exercise will help keep the blood flowing.

If you think you might have frostbite, visit us at AFC Urgent Care Timonium. We will assess the severity of the injury and plan a course of treatment.