Predisposing factors and prevention of frostbite

Int J Circumpolar Health. 2000 Apr;59(2):114-21.


This review focuses on the physiological, behavioural and environmental factors which predispose to frostbite. Also prevention of frostbite is summarised. Predisposing factors may increase heat loss, decrease heat production, decrease the insulation of the clothing, make people especially susceptible to cold or make them to behave inadequately. Marked increase in convective or conductive heat loss is often the immediate reason for frostbite. Wind (as described by wind chill index) increases convective heat loss and touching of metal objects increases conductive cooling. Poor insulation of the clothing is also a common reason of frostbite. The insulation can be insufficient when clothing is wet, tight, permeable to wind or does not cover the cold sensitive body parts. Individual factors predisposing to frostbite are inadequate behaviour, low physical fitness, fatigue, dehydration, earlier cold injuries, sickness or poor circulation in peripheral parts of the body. Frostbite is often associated with the use of alcohol. To prevent frostbite, it is necessary to recognise cold risks, practise tasks in the cold, eat and drink well, have physical exercise, have sufficient clothing (also spare clothing), change into dry clothing if necessary and take care of companions. In the cold it is not advisable to get fatigued until exhaustion, sweat excessively, use tight and/or wet clothing, drink alcohol, smoke and expose oneself unnecessarily to wind, metals or fluids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Causality
  • Cold Climate / adverse effects
  • Dehydration / complications
  • Fatigue / complications
  • Frostbite / etiology*
  • Frostbite / physiopathology
  • Frostbite / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Physical Fitness
  • Primary Prevention / methods*
  • Protective Clothing
  • Smoking / adverse effects