How Fast Would a Baby Get Frostbite?

by Sara Ipatenco

    Frostbite is simply defined as frozen skin. Babies are more prone to frostbite because their skin loses heat more rapidly than older children and adults, and they can become affected quite quickly. Taking precautions before going outside in cold weather will keep your baby safe and frostbite-free. If your baby does develop symptoms of frostbite, seek medical attention immediately.

    Time Factor

    Frostbite occurs when the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the temperature at which water freezes. The amount of time it takes a baby to develop frostbite depends on how cold the temperature is, whether it's windy, how much of her skin is exposed and how long she's been out in the elements. Frostbite can occur in babies after just a few minutes of exposure, especially in their noses, cheeks, chin, ears and fingers, because these are usually the body parts exposed to the cold. Frostbite in the toes is also common, according to the Mayo Clinic website. In severe cases, frostbite can penetrate deep into the skin and can reach the muscles and bones, as well.

    Signs and Symptoms

    The most common symptom of frostbite is pain and tingling in the affected areas, but since your baby won't be able to vocalize his discomfort, pay attention to fussiness and crying. Frostbite will also cause your baby's skin to turn white and feel hard to the touch. Any case of frostbite requires medical attention, according to the Kids Health website, so don't attempt to treat any of your baby's symptoms on your own.

    Prevention

    If the temperature outside is below freezing, don't take your baby outside unless it's absolutely necessary. If you do have to go out, you might warm your car up ahead of time so your baby is only out in the elements for the few minutes it takes to walk to the car. Dress your baby in layers and always include a hat, mittens, thick socks and a winter coat. Cover as much of your baby's skin as possible, because exposed skin is more susceptible to frostbite. Don't let your baby stay in wet clothes, either, because that increases the risk of frostbite. Carry extra clothes with you so you can add layers or change your baby out of wet clothes if it becomes necessary.

    Additional Considerations

    Be on the lookout for frostnip, which is a warning that frostbite might occur. Frostnip is a mild case of frostbite and causes cold, tingling and painful skin. If your baby's skin is exposed and feels cold to the touch, go indoors. If your baby is outside and appears uncomfortable or in pain, you should also go inside and warm up. If your baby appears to have frostbite, call her pediatrician or go to the emergency room. Your baby's pediatrician might recommend immersing her in warm water for 20 to 30 minutes, which will thaw the skin. Her pediatrician might also recommend going straight to the emergency room, particularly if your child has developed blisters. Frostbite can occur more quickly and be more severe if your baby's clothes are wet at the time of exposure.

    About the Author

    Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

    Photo Credits

    • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images