Frostbite in the Hand


Chicago, IL- February 27, 2015 – Frostbite occurs when the skin is overexposed to extreme cold. It can occur when the temperature and/or wind chill is below 27°F (-3°C), and it typically occurs in the fingers and toes. Dr. Randall W. Viola from The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado says that the cases of frostbite he sees are “typically the result of overexposure in the backcountry—skiers, snowboarders and climbers who don't have the luxury of warming up in the lodge because they have ventured off the grid.”

When caught early, most frostbite is superficial and therefore reversible. If your fingertips are white, numb and swollen, see your doctor as soon as possible. Do not rewarm your fingers if you will be overexposing them to cold weather again. Your doctor will take care of rewarming the affected areas, and a hand surgeon may be brought in to take care of any blisters.

If you are with a young child who is complaining of being cold, then go inside. Dr. Adam B. Shafritz from the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, Vermont explains that once frostbite sets in, the child will stop complaining because the area becomes numb and he or she cannot feel the problem. It is important to monitor children and yourself for signs of frostbite.

To prevent frostbite, limit your time outside during cold weather; if you must venture outside, wear appropriate clothing. In extremely cold temperatures, winter athletes should consider electric boot warmers to protect their toes or gloves and mittens that have electric warming systems to protect their fingers, especially if they sustained frostbite in the past. Winter sports participants should heed warnings posted by the mountain on very cold days. 

For More Information 
To identify a local hand surgeon spokesperson in your market, please call Tara Spiess, ASSH, at 312-880-1900. Please also visit for more information on hand safety.

About Hand Surgeons
Hand surgeons have received specialized additional training in the treatment of hand problems in addition to their board certified specialty training in orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery or general surgery.  To become members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, hand surgeons must have completed a full year of such additional training and must pass a rigorous certifying examination.

Many hand surgeons also have expertise with problems of the elbow, arm, and shoulder.  Some hand surgeons treat only children, some treat only adults, and some treat both.  Common problems treated include carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, wrist pain, sports injuries of the hand and wrist, fractures of the hand, wrist, and forearm, and trigger fingers. Other problems treated by hand surgeons include arthritis, nerve and tendon injuries and congenital limb differences (birth defects).

Not all problems treated by a hand surgeon require surgery.  Hand surgeons often recommend non-surgical treatments, such as medication, splints, therapy and injections.  

About the ASSH
The mission of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand is to advance the science and practice of hand and upper extremity surgery through education, research and advocacy on behalf of patients and practitioners. 

Tara Spiess
822 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago, IL
Ph: 312.880.1900