What are the 3 Stages of Frostbite?

In areas that are experiencing freezing temperatures, knowing the early signs of frostbite can be life-saving. While deep frostbite is not as common, it is still important to know when things have gotten too far. AFC Urgent Care New Britain is here to provide you with information and urgent care services in case of non-life-threatening emergencies. Learn more about frostbite and how to prevent yourself and others from suffering from it.

Frostnip & Treatment

The first stage of frostbite is called frostnip. This stage has the mildest form of symptoms. The effects of frostnip are reversible and do not cause any severe damage. Symptoms include stinging or numbness of the affected area, and it may become red or white. While warming up, the area may feel a burning sensation.

To treat it, simply go inside or warm up the area with other layers. If clothing is wet, change into something dry and do not go into the cold. Do not apply heat directly to the source, as this can end up burning your skin. Continue moving toes or fingers to increase blood flow to the affected area.

Superficial Frostbite

This is the second stage of frostbite. At this stage, the skin will begin to change from red to a paler, sometimes blue, color. It may start to swell and feel frozen when touched. At this stage, it’s important to seek medical attention to prevent the skin from becoming even more damaged. While warming, the skin may feel like it is burning, and after warming, blisters can appear within 24 hours. While the skin may properly heal after blisters are gone, there is still a chance of sensitivity to cold on the affected area.

Deep Frostbite

This is the final and worst stage of frostbite. At this point, there is damage to the skin and the tissue below it, so the skin may appear white and blotchy. There is also a chance for dark blood blisters to appear. The muscles near the affected area may not work correctly, and it’s important to immediately get medical attention. After the skin has been warmed, it will appear black and hard, and blisters will appear within 12 hours. Follow-up visits may need to happen to see how damaged the skin really is. There can be permanent sensitivity to the cold in that area.


Always dress for outdoor conditions. Wearing multiple layers can help protect your skin. Though exposed skin, toes, and fingers are the most common areas of frostbite, it is possible to get frostbite on covered areas in extreme temperatures. Pay attention to the condition of your skin and those around you to prevent the frostbite from worsening. Once you start to experience symptoms of frostnip, warm the areas immediate to stay safe.