If you don't wear gloves, warm socks or a winter hat, frostbite is something to look for. After prolonged exposure to the bitter cold, ice crystals form on the outside of your skin cells. This dehydrates the cell and eventually kills it. Your outer extremities are usually the first to be affected -- fingers, toes and ears.
The two main stages of frostbite and its symptoms are:
- Superficial frostbite - numbness, tingling, burning, itching. The skin looks frozen white and retains firmness when pressed.
- Deep frostbite - increased and eventual loss of sensation, swelling, blood blisters. The skin is yellowish and hard and can appear blackened and dead.
To treat frostbite, move to a warm area as soon as you can and elevate the affected area. Remove any restricted clothing or jewelry to keep from further inhibiting the flow of blood. Thawing should be performed by a doctor, so get to a hospital as soon as you can. If you can't get to a doctor warm the area quickly in water between 104-107 degrees Fahrenheit (40-42 degrees Celsius). This will be a painful process, but necessary to save your digits [source: WebMD].