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Home > Health Library > Cold Temperature Exposure
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 isn't well heated during cold weather.
There are many things that increase your risk of injury from exposure to cold temperatures. They include:
Many people get cold hands or feet. This is often bothersome, but it's not a serious health problem. You're more likely to feel cold easily if:
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.
Home treatment is usually all that's needed to relieve your symptoms. Here are some things you can do to help your body warm up after being exposed to cold temperatures.
Fear and being too active cause sweating. Sweating can make you feel chilled.
Get out of the cold, the wind, or the water.
Remove cold, wet clothes. Put on dry clothing—made of moisture-wicking fabrics, such as wool, polyester, or nylon (not cotton)–that insulates well. Cover your head. Wrap up in blankets.
Activity heats up the body and improves blood flow. But avoid sweating. It cools the body.
Try to avoid fluids that contain alcohol or caffeine.
If your ears, face, nose, fingers, or toes are really cold or frozen, try to warm them by blowing warm air on them, tucking them inside your clothing, or putting them in warm water.
Apply aloe vera or another moisturizer, such as Lubriderm or Keri lotion, to windburned skin. Reapply often. There's not much you can do to stop skin from peeling after a windburn. It's just part of the healing process.
Nonprescription artificial tears warmed to body temperature can moisturize and soothe eyes that are cold, sore, or dry from exposure to cold or wind.
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.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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