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Extreme exposure of your feet to cold for a prolonged period can lead to a serious condition called frostbite. Frostbite starts by producing pain and a burning sensation in the exposed areas. This is followed by numbness in toes or feet and changes in skin color, from pale or red to bluish-gray or black. People with a history of frostbite often get it again in the same place.

Superficial frostbite injuries refer to those that involve the skin and subcutaneous tissue. When the damage goes more deeply, beyond the subcutaneous tissue and into muscles, nerves, tendons, or bones, they are classified as deep frostbite injuries. The extent of the injury impacts the prognosis for healing and long-term complications.

Children, the elderly, and diabetics are more prone to frostbite because of the size of their extremities or poor circulation. People who live or work outdoors also have a higher likelihood of contracting frostbite because of their increased exposure to the cold.

If you suspect that you have frostbite, seek emergency medical care as soon as possible. Get out of the cold and into a warm environment as quickly as possible. Keep the feet dry and warm. Do not expose the flesh to extremely warm or hot temperatures (such as a fire or portable heater). A gradual and steady warming procedure should be followed.