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What Is Frostbite?

Frostbite: A Definition


Frostbite is injury to the skin and if severe, underlying tissue, resulting from prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures often exacerbated by wind chill.

In other words, body tissue is frozen as a result of blood vessels contracting in response to cold temperatures, reducing blood flow and oxygen to the skin and extremities in order to increase said flow to internal organs. This assists in supplying the body's core with more nutrients and warmth, preventing internal body temperature from dropping to hypothermic levels.

Most of the time, it's exposed skin that's at risk of frostbite, but if temperatures are cold enough and one remains in the cold long enough with insufficient wardrobe protection, even unexposed skin can freeze.

Sources: About.com First Aid, eMedecineHealth, Medscape, WebMD, Environment Canada

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