How to Treat Frostbite – First Aid Training – St John Ambulance

Frostbite happens when parts of the skin
and other tissues freeze due to low temperatures. It usually happens to parts of the body furthest from the heart like fingers and toes. Frostbite usually happens in freezing or cold and windy weather. People who cannot move around are more likely to get it. Someone with frostbite will probably have
hypothermia, so be prepared to treat them for hypothermia too. There are four signs to look for: pins and needles to begin with, paleness followed by numbness, hardening and stiffening of the skin, change in skin colour first white, then blotchy and blue. If someone has frostbite, encourage them to put their hands in
their armpits, then help move them indoors or somewhere warm. Then, gently remove any
constricting items like rings, gloves, or boots. Also remember to keep them warm. Next, warm the body part with your hands on your lap or under the armpits. Don’t rub because it could damage the skin tissue but if there’s a danger of it re-freezing don’t warm it up yet as it could cause more damage. Place the body part in warm but not hot water that’s around 40 degrees centigrade – that’s 104 Fahrenheit. Be careful not to put it near direct heat as this could cause more damage. Dry it carefully, and put on a light dressing ideally gauze pad from your first aid kit. Once you’ve done that, help them to raise their limb to reduce swelling. You could use a cushion or sling. You can give them some painkillers for the pain then take or send them to hospital, but make sure their affected limb is raised. So remember: when treating someone
with frostbite put their hands in their armpits remove restricting clothing warm the body part with your hands use warm water but not hot water to warm the affected limb put on a light dressing give them painkillers and take them to hospital. And that’s how we treat frostbite.


  1. When you're giving first aid you should generally never give any medication, they might be allergic to it or otherwhise react badly.

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