What are the risk factors for frostbite?

Updated: Oct 13, 2020
  • Author: Bobak Zonnoor , MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Risk factors for frostbite include the following [25] :

  • Inadequate shelter

  • Inadequate or constrictive clothing

  • Winter season

  • Wind chill factor

  • High altitude

  • Prolonged exposure to cold

  • Prolonged exposure to moisture - Wet skin cools faster because of heat loss from evaporation and from direct heat conduction to water

  • Immobilization

  • Malnutrition and exhaustion

  • Previous cold injury - Previous injury increases risk 2-fold

  • Acclimatization to tropical climates

  • Improper behavioral response to cold ambient temperature

  • Extremes of age

  • Homelessness

  • Altered mental status (eg, from head trauma, ethanol or illicit drug abuse, or psychiatric illness)

  • Exposure to drugs with vasoconstrictive effects (eg, nicotine)

  • Exposure to chronic hand or arm vibration

  • Tendency of hands to become white in the cold

Underlying conditions that may predispose to frostbite include the following:

  • Infection

  • Alcohol abuse

  • Peripheral vascular disease/atherosclerosis

  • Arthritis

  • Diabetes

  • Thyroid disease

  • Stroke

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