Chilblains and frostbite

In winter, with persistent, moderate cold, for example, toes and fingers can cause skin damage. If the warnings such as tingling on the toes, fingers or nose are ignored, it leads to the well-known, painful chilblains. But also frostbite and hypothermia are possible consequences of cold temperatures. We reveal how to properly treat chilblains and frostbite.

Chilblains possible even without frost

Chilblains are cold-induced, localized skin lesions that are often itchy and very painful, especially when you're warmed up by the cold. At first, blue-red discoloration occurs, later swelling occurs. Chilblains are treated with rheumatism, but also with frost or ointment. The best protection against chilblains offers a warm clothing.

To distinguish are chilblains of frostbite. Chilblains can form at temperatures around freezing, but frostbite can only occur if the frost is right.

Severity levels of frostbite

In frostbite, different degrees of severity are distinguished, similar to burns. Grade I is light frostbite. The skin on the affected areas looks marbled white and marbled. If it is warmed up again, it comes to complete healing.

At grade II, the skin is deep red to purple and feels very cold. Here, as in the heavier stages, lasting damage can be left behind. In such a case, find a doctor as soon as possible or call the ambulance.

Treatment of frostbite

Warm the affected areas - usually cheeks, nose, fingers or toes - by covering them with a warm piece of clothing. Try to reach an ambient temperature of 25 to 30 degrees Celsius. For "thawing" is also recommended a full bath, which is started with lukewarm water. The temperature may only be increased slowly to avoid tissue damage.


Frostbite has nothing to do with hypothermia: hypothermia is a life-threatening condition that affects many homeless people every winter. This is understood as a drop in body temperature below 35 degrees Celsius. Hypothermia affects the whole body, while frostbite always causes local cold.

Frostbite in summer

Right! This can happen if, for example, sports injuries put ice directly on the skin and stay there too long. Therefore always cover the ice cubes with a cloth. Frostbite can also occur if an icing spray is sprayed on the skin at close range.

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