You Think You May Have Frostbite

Mar 11, 2010
Outside Magazine
Adventure Medicine


Your toes and/or fingers are numb and white. Thaw them out ASAP or keep them on ice?
DEAL WITH IT: If you're in the backcountry, and there's a chance they might refreeze, leave them alone. Secondary freezing is worse than the first, and it's easier to hike or ski out on numb toes than thawed (and excruciatingly painful) frostbitten ones. But as soon as you're in from the cold for good, immediately warm them in a hot bath (up to 104 degrees). And take ibuprofen: New science suggests it opens blood vessels and speeds healing.
AVOID IT: Don't overtighten boots, stay hydrated, and make sure to keep your hands, feet, and core warm. The first sign on exposed skin is frostnip (numb, white, firm), which is easily reversible: Just bundle up—or better yet, get out of the cold.