It's easy to get cold quickly if you are outside in 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 weather.
There are many factors that increase your risk of injury from exposure to cold temperatures.
Many people get cold hands or feet, which often are bothersome but not a serious health problem. You are more likely to feel cold easily if you:
If you have already been exposed to the cold, first aid measures can warm you up and may even save your life.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Early symptoms of hypothermia may include:
Cold injury to the skin may cause:
Low body temperature means:
Some people's skin is very sensitive to cold temperatures and reacts abnormally. For example:
Symptoms of severe hypothermia may include:
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Most minor cold injuries will heal on their own, and home treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve your symptoms and promote healing. But if you think you may have a more severe cold injury, use first aid measures while you arrange for an evaluation by your doctor. These first aid measures can also be used for children. Be sure to warm the child's whole body with blankets as well as the cold injured parts.
Frostbitten skin may be more sensitive after the cold injury. The injured skin area should be protected with sunscreen and protective clothing to prevent further skin damage. The color of the injured skin may also change over time.
Apply aloe vera or another moisturizer, such as Lubriderm or Keri lotion, to windburned skin. Reapply often. There is little you can do to stop skin from peeling after a windburn—it is part of the healing process—but home treatment may make your skin feel better.
Use nonprescription artificial tears warmed to body temperature to moisturize and soothe eyes that are cold, sore, or dry from exposure to cold or wind.
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
Many cold injuries can be prevented by protecting yourself when you are outdoors in cold weather.
Children may not be aware of cold temperatures. Parents need to understand the ways in which the body loses heat and:
Older or less active people can prevent indoor hypothermia by dressing warmly while indoors and keeping room temperatures above 65°F (18°C).
Be aware that some states fund programs to help low-income families add insulation or "weatherize" their homes to keep the family warm. Also, some low-income families may qualify for help in paying their heating bills. Contact your state or local energy agency or the local power or gas company for more information.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topicMaking the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.