How Long Does Frostbite Last, Its Stages and 13 Home Remedies

About Frostbite

Frostbite is a condition that occurs when the body is exposed to temperatures below the skin’s freezing point. This in turn results in freezing of the skin and the underlying tissues. Frostbite can cause the skin to become pale, firm and numb. Smaller parts of the body, such as ears, nose, cheeks, fingers and toes, which are generally exposed, are very much prone to frostbite. There are several stages of frostbite, and the symptoms in the different stages differ. Though this condition can be treated with simple measures, such as gradually re-warming the skin; however; in severe cases of frostbite or in case the condition has caused damage to the skin or underlying tissue, muscles or bones, then medical attention is essential. But again, there are also some home remedies which can be used to treat mild cases of frostbite. In this article, we will know how long does frostbite last, its stages and some of the home remedies to get rid of the condition.

How Long Does Frostbite Last?

How Long Does Frostbite Last?

Frostbite can last anywhere from 1 month to 3 months. Some symptoms of frostbite may even last for years. The symptoms here follow a predictable pathway. After initial numbness there is throbbing sensation which starts after warming of the area is done. This sensation may last for a few weeks or even months. The throbbing sensation is then followed by constant feelings of tingling with occasional shock like sensation. Sensory loss, cold sensation, chronic pain, and some other symptoms may last for years.

It must be mentioned that the recovery time of a frostbite injury depends on the extent of tissue injury and also whether or not there are any subsequent complications, such as any infection. It may take 1-3 months before, it is possible to determine the extent of damage caused to the tissue, and to clearly delineate which tissue is still viable. Patients with frostbite are usually hospitalized for at least 1 or 2 days so as to determine the extent of injury and to receive treatments accordingly. The treatment is done over a period of weeks to months. Definitive therapy, such as surgery typically, may not be performed for up to 6 months after the initial injury of frostbite.

Some individuals with frostbite require skin grafting, debridement, or even at times amputation of the affected area. Some patients experience long-term ramifications from frostbite injuries like cold sensitivity with pain or burning sensation, increased swelling, arthritis, and tingling around the affected area.

Stages of Frostbite:

First Stage: First-Degree Frostbite- Frostnip

The first stage of frostbite is referred to as Frostnip. The symptoms at this stage are minimal and there is literally no damage done to the skin. In this first-degree frostbite, the skin becomes erythematous and feels cool to touch. The skin may even begin to feel numb or have a pricking sensation in case you stay in the cold. Frostnip can be treated with simple first aid measures, including preventing further exposure to cold and rewarming; and with some simple home remedies(We will discuss in the later part of the article).

You may feel some pain or tingling, as your skin begins to warm up. You can take an OTC pain medication such as ibuprofen, so as to ease any discomfort.

Second Stage: Second-Degree Frostbite Or Superficial Frostbite

The second stage of frostbite or the second-degree frostbite is also known as Superficial frostbite. During this stage of frostbite, your skin begins to turn a reddish color to a paler color. In some cases, it may also appear blue. There may even be a formation of ice crystals in your skin. Due to this, the skin over the affected area may have a hard feeling on palpation.

At the same time, the skin starts to feel warm with visible swelling over the affected area. This is a sign that damage to your skin tissue is beginning to occur in this stage. The tissues below your skin are still intact; however, prompt medical treatments are essential here so as to prevent any further damage.

Rewarming should occur as soon as possible. Your doctor may give you pain killers so as to help with the pain occurring with rewarming. After rewarming, they will wrap the injured or affected area and protect it. IV fluids may also be given to keep you hydrated. There may be a development of fluid-filled blisters in the affected area, following re-warming. Your skin may appear blue or purple and you may observe swelling and feel a burning or stinging sensation. Blisters may be present and in that case your doctor may drain them or prescribe some antibiotics to treat the infection associated with it.

Many patients can recover completely from this second stage of frostbite. Formation of new skin occurs underneath the scabs or blisters, although in some cases damage is permanent with associated symptoms like numbness sensation or pain over the affected area.

Third Stage: Third-Degree Frostbite Or Deep Frostbite

Deep frostbite is the third stage or third-degree frostbite. It is the most severe stage of frostbite and affects both, your skin and also the tissues lying below it. The skin of the affected area, in this stage of frostbite you may have a blue or a splotchy look to it. The area will become numb with no perceived sensation to cold or pain. The muscle groups adjacent to the affected area tend to lose their function. There may also be a development of fluid-filled blisters which in majority of cases is blood in people with deep frostbite.

This stage of frostbite warrants prompt medical attention. Your physician will warm up the affected area and give you pain medications, wrap the area, and may provide IV fluids too. You may receive medication to dissolve any clots that may be formed as a mode of treatment for third stage of frostbite. Extreme cases of frostbite may lead to development of blood clots. This type of medication helps in improving blood flow to the affected area.

The area will appear black and feel hard, following the re-warming. Large blisters may also develop here. It may take several weeks for your doctor to determine the full extent of the damage caused in deep frostbite.

13 Home Remedies For Frostbite:

Hot And Cold Compress As A Remedy For Frostbite:

Hot and cold compress can work as a fair home remedy for frostbite. Place a hot compress over the affected area, for at least 3 minutes and then use a cold compress for half a minute. This alternating hot and cold treatment will help you ease the symptoms of frostbite in affected areas.

Keeping The Body Warm:

If you suffer from the symptoms of a frostbite, you must right away get indoors and stay in a warm atmosphere. Try to wear fresh and dry clothes, wrap a warm blanket around your body so as to quickly increase the heat of the body.

Blowing warm air could also help in reducing the signs of frostbite. You can also dip your body in warm water or can also dip a cloth in warm water and use it to press over the affected area of the skin. However, be sure that you are not rubbing the area as it can result in unwanted harms. Also, avoid using heating pads or heaters.

You can also fill up a bottle with hot water and roll it under your feet or palms, as this will help to warm up frostbitten toes or fingers.

Witch Hazel:

Witch Hazel is one of the best home remedies for frostbite. This can treat frostbite fast and also in a safe manner. It helps in improving the frozen skin areas and can even help in preventing further infections.

To effectively use this herb over the affected areas of the skin, you just have to pour some witch hazel on the affected area.

Cayenne Pepper:

One more useful home remedy for frostbite could be Cayenne pepper. This herb has been proved useful in increasing the blood circulation and also in relieving the pain associated with the infection. Taking cayenne pepper daily is considered very useful for treating frostbite and also several other conditions, including constipation and stomach pain.

Ginger Tea:

Ginger tea is also very effective in treating symptoms of the initial stage of frostbite. It increases the circulation of blood and helps in dealing with the disease.
Simply drinking about 200 ml of ginger tea on a regular basis, just once in a day, can do some real great wonders.

Herbal Teas:

Herbal teas are also one of the effective home remedies for frostbite. Chamomile tea is one of the wonderful herbal teas that you can prepare and use to treat issues related to frostbite. You can also take peppermint tea for frostbite.

Banana Peel:

Banana peel is also considered to be an effective home remedy for frostbite. To make use of this ingredient, you simply need to use fresh banana peel and cover the affected area of the skin. This remedy is simple, safe and also beneficial in reducing the swellings caused by frostbite.


Rose hip is a popular home remedy for dealing with the issues related to frostbite. This is because, the herb contains an abundant amount of Vitamin C, which is very important for good skin health.

You simply have to drink one cup of warm rose hip on a regular basis, so as to treat the symptoms of frostbite in its initial stages.

Aloe Vera:

One of the best home remedies for frostbite could be Aloe vera. Aloe vera is rich in Vitamin E, which is considered very essential for skin health. Moreover, it can also help to kill bacteria, virus, and fungi as well. So, you can use aloe vera to treat the symptoms of frostbite.

In order to make use of this, you just need to take the fresh gel of aloe vera and apply to the affected areas of the skin directly, several times throughout the day.You can get the aloe vera gel by breaking out the leaf of fresh aloe vera plant. This gel helps in reducing the inflammation due to frostbite. It can increase the blood circulation inside the affected body parts and help you get rid of the symptoms quickly.

Mullein Flowers:

Mullein flower is well-known for its effectiveness in curing frostbite. You simply need to prepare a paste from mullein flower and a little olive oil. This paste is to be applied over the frostbitten skin areas on your body. It can reduce the symptoms of frostbite for effectively and also in a quick time.


There is one more great home remedy for frostbite. Horsetail can be very helpful in case of frostbite. It contains an abundant amount of silica, or the essential substance which is proved favorable for patients to reconstruct the skin tissues. Moreover, horsetail also provides us with collagen, or the component which is beneficial for regenerating the skin cells. So, this could be really a wonderful home remedy that can be used to treat mild cases of frostbite.

Onion Poultice:

An efficient poultice should be prepared by using one onion which can be then used to apply on the affected area of the skin. For getting most effects, you should use a cold poultice with milled onion.

Few Other Home Remedies For Frostbite:

Below are few other home remedies for frostbite you need to keep in mind.

  • Do not expose the affected areas to heat, such as a heat lamp or fire, as this may further damage the skin and tissue. The affected areas must be slowly re-warmed.
  • You can expose the affected area to your own body heat, and this is an effective home remedy for frostbite. Place your hands or your fingers under your armpits or lie down and curl your body inwards so that warmth is generated.
  • Do not place the affected areas under running water, as this can lead to further heat loss.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, as this can cause the body to lose more heat.
  • In case frostbite has affected your face; then place dry, gloved hands over it so as to generate warmth.
  • Avoid smoking, as nicotine in cigarettes can reduce the circulation in the body and this can lead to further complications.
  • Wear loose and comfortable clothing which helps in proper circulation in the body. This will help in quicker recovery of the affected body parts.
  • Nourishing oils, such as peppermint oil or olive oil can also be used to treat areas affected by frostbite.

Though there is no specific diet for frostbite, it is essential for you to eat healthy and nutritious foods, which helps in strengthening the body and also help to boost the function of your body’s immune system.


With all the above-listed home remedies for frostbite, you can easily prevent or treat the milder cases of frostbite at home. However, it must be noted that these remedies work only during the first or the initial stage of frostbite. You need to consult your doctor if the symptoms persist longer and take the best possible treatments for your condition and also keep away from any further complications associated with it.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 27, 2018

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