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Frostbite Causes & Risks


Frostbite happens when skin is exposed to freezing temperatures. This can cause the body tissue to freeze. Ice crystals actually form within the frozen body part. Blood cannot flow adequately through the frozen tissue. This causes the frozen tissue to be deprived of blood and oxygen. The combination of freezing and oxygen deprivation causes tissue damage or tissue death. Rewarming may also ultimately lead to tissue death.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance for frostbite include:

  • Exposure to freezing temperatures without adequate covering
  • Low body temperature ( hypothermia )
  • Age: very young or very old
  • Homelessness
  • Fatigue
  • History of previous cold weather injury
  • High-altitude cold exposure
  • Working in freezing conditions
  • Participating in winter sports or high-altitude sports
  • Wearing wet clothing
  • Suffering from a condition that affects your mental status, such as:
  • Inability to move
  • Using drugs that cause your blood vessels to become constricted (such as nicotine )
  • Medical conditions, such as:

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