Know these symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite

Posted on January 30, 2019 in Dairy Performance
The extreme cold weather and wind chills you are dealing with are dangerous. 

Keep this list handy and watch for any symptoms that may occur in your family members, employees or yourself.

Source:  Cold-related conditions and agriculture. (2012). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice.  

Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body is unable to produce heat and has used all its stored energy or is losing body heat faster than it can be produced. As a result, a person’s body temperature decreases.

When a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees F degrees, the heart, nervous system and other organs can be adversely affected. The most common causes of hypothermia are exposure to cold weather and immersion in cold water.

Early symptoms

  • Shivering
  • Decreased energy
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of coordination

Symptoms after prolonged exposure to cold

  • Dilated pupils
  • Decreased pulse
  • Shallow breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

First Aid response

  • Call 911 or emergency medical personnel.
  • Find a warm room or shelter and remove any wet clothing.
  • Drink a warm (nonalcoholic and caffeine-free) beverage if one is available.
  • Stay dry and warm by wrapping up in a blanket.
  • If you are assisting a person with hypothermia, and he or she does not have a pulse, begin cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Frostbite occurs when skin tissue freezes and loses water, leading to the potential for cell damage. Skin can freeze at temperatures of 30 degrees F and below, and wind chill can also cause frostbite. Fingers, toes, cheeks, nose and ears are the areas of the body most typically affected by frostbite. Frostbitten skin may look white or grayish yellow and may feel cold, hard, and possibly waxy to the touch.
  • Numbness
  • Aching
  • Tingling
  • Stinging

First Aid response

  • Find a warm room or shelter.
  • Avoid walking if your feet or toes are frostbitten.
  • Soak affected areas in warm (not hot) water.
  • Avoid rubbing the affected area because rubbing could cause tissue damage.
  • Wrap affected area in a soft cloth.
  • Do not use a heating pad, fireplace or radiator for warming.
  • Do not warm the area if there is a risk of refreezing.

Trench foot
Trench foot occurs when a person’s feet have prolonged exposure to cold (60 degrees F or less) and wet conditions. This condition is similar to frostbite, but is typically less severe.


  • Reddening of the skin
  • Numbness
  • Leg cramps
  • Swelling
  • Tingling pain
  • Blisters or ulcers
  • Bleeding under the skin
  • Gangrene

First Aid response

  • Remove shoes or boots and wet socks.
  • Dry the feet.
  • Avoid walking to reduce the risk of damage to foot tissue.

Chilblains are painful inflammations in small blood vessels in the skin that result from exposure to cold temperatures. The areas most commonly subject to chilblains include the toes, fingers, ears and nose.


  • Redness
  • Blistering
  • Itching
  • Inflammation
  • Ulceration (in severe cases)

First Aid response

  • Avoid scratching the affected skin.
  • Slowly warm the skin.
  • Use corticosteroid creams to relieve itching and swelling.
  • Keep blisters and ulcers clean and covered.


Category: Dairy Performance
Employee management
Winter calf care