Frostnip: What is it and why is it more of a threat to children?

By Katy Galimberti, AccuWeather staff writer

Frostbite and hypothermia are serious, but widely-known cold weather dangers. But their lesser-known counterpart, frostnip, can be vital in detecting if a more serious condition is developing.

Frostnip is a mild form of frostbite, according to Deborah Erdman, a Geisinger Medical Center trauma education nurse.

It affects areas like the earlobes, cheeks, nose, fingers and toes. Erdman said exposed skin may be red or sore, but no tissue injury occurs. Once the skin is exposed to warmth, the side effects disappear.

While frostnip itself is not a major threat, it can be a sign that frostbite or hyopthermia are next.

child sled cold weather

Children and the elderly are more susceptible to frostnip and ensuing frostbite. (Flickr Photo/Nathan Put-Fernandez)

"Frostnip may be dangerous as it could lead to frostbite if the extremities are exposed for a prolonged period of time," Erdman said.

Young children and older adults are at the highest risk, as heat disappears from their skin at a faster rate. With children, Erdman said, they might ignore any signs of discomfort because they want to stay outside while playing.

Those with chronic illness should also take extra precaution as they have less tissue used for fat storage, called subcutaneous. This makes them more prone to frostnip and frostbite.

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In some cases, frostnip can lead to exposed skin feeling prickly, slightly painful or cause an itching sensation, Erdman told AccuWeather.

If frostnip is detected, seek warmth before anything more serious develops.

Once the exposed skin progresses to the frostbite stage, ensure that the skin is covered with warm and dry clothing but not placed near direct heat.

To prevent frostnip, avoid staying outside in cold conditions for extended periods of time and dress appropriately for the weather.

For more tips on how to prevent and treat frostbite, click here.

For more safety and preparedness tips, visit

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