Frostbite is a direct effect of the cold on health. It is a serious problem that results in the freezing of skin exposed to the cold. Frostbite is characterized by skin that appears waxy and is lighter than usual. The ears, nose, cheeks, fingers and toes are the parts of the body most often affected by frostbite.
You can get frostbite if you stay outside in the cold too long without protecting your skin properly.
Risk of frostbite varies according to the temperature felt, meaning the wind chill index. Weather forecasters use the term “wind chill index” to indicate the temperature felt on skin exposed to the cold. In general, the temperature felt is colder than the actual temperature.
Wind chill index
Risk of frostbite
0 to -9
Wind chill causes a bit of discomfort
-10 to -27
-28 to -39
Skin exposed to the cold can freeze within 10 to 30 minutes (or faster, if the wind is strong)
-40 to -47
Skin exposed to the cold can freeze within 5 to 10 minutes (or faster, if the wind is strong)
-48 to -54
Skin exposed to the cold can freeze within 2 to 5 minutes (or faster, if the wind is strong)
-55 and lower
Skin exposed to the cold can freeze in less than 2 minutes
Frostbite affects the skin of the extremities (ears, nose, cheeks, fingers and toes) and other areas directly exposed to the cold, with varying degrees of severity. Symptoms of superficial frostbite, which only affect the skin’s surface, are different from those of severe frostbite.