Cold Temperature Exposure - Topic Overview
It's easy to get cold quickly if you are
wet, windy, or cold weather. Cold temperature exposure can also happen if you
spend time in a dwelling or other building that is not well heated during cold
- "Frostnip" usually affects skin on the face,
ears, or fingertips. Frostnip may cause numbness or blue-white skin color for a
short time, but normal feeling and color return quickly when you get warm. No
permanent tissue damage occurs.
- Frostbite is
freezing of the skin and the tissues under the skin because of temperatures
Frostbitten skin looks pale or blue and feels cold,
numb, and stiff or rubbery to the touch.
- Cold injuries, such as
trench foot or
chilblains, may cause pale and blistered skin like
frostbite after the skin has warmed. These injuries occur from spending too
much time in cold, but not freezing, temperatures. The skin does not actually
- Eye pain or vision changes caused by cold exposure most often occur in
individuals who try to force their eyes open in high winds, cold weather, or
during activities such as snowmobiling or cross-country skiing. Snow blindness
is not directly caused by cold temperatures but does occur in snow conditions.
Sunlight reflecting off the snow can cause a corneal injury or
burn. Eyelids may become red and swollen. Eyes may feel dry and as
though they have sand in them.
- An abnormally low body temperature (hypothermia) occurs
body loses heat faster than it can make heat. (There may be other reasons a person has a low body temperature. For more information, see the topic Body Temperature.) Early symptoms of hypothermia
include shivering in adults and older children; clumsy movements; apathy (lack
of concern); poor judgment; and cold, pale, or blue-gray skin. Hypothermia is
an emergency condition—it can quickly lead to unconsciousness and death if the
heat loss is not stopped.
There are many
factors that increase your risk of injury from exposure to cold