What causes frostbite?

Updated: Jul 29, 2019
  • Author: Bobak Zonnoor , MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
  • Print
Answer

Frostbite severity and resultant tissue injury are a function of 2 factors: (1) absolute temperature and (2) duration of cold exposure. With regard to these 2 factors, data suggest that the duration of exposure has the greater impact on the level of injury and the amount of tissue damage; however, short-term exposure to extreme cold may produce the same overall injury pattern as excessively prolonged exposure to lesser degrees of cold.

The wind chill factor will greatly affect the severity of frostbite. Although the actual ambient temperature does not change as a result of wind chill, the increased rate of cooling creates a much lower effective temperature on exposed skin and accelerates the rate of cooling and the process of freezing in the tissues.


Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!