Frostbite vs. Hypothermia

Updated Tuesday December 22, 2015 by Cheryl Erickson.

There are two cold-related pathologies that coaches, administrators and athletes should be aware of: hypothermia and frostbite. 
1. Hypothermia is defined as a decrease in the core body temperature to at least 95 degrees F. It occurs when the heat loss is greater than the metabolic and heat production. Hypothermia can be categorized in three stages: mild, moderate and severe, based on core body temperature. 
2. Frostbite is a thermal injury to the skin, which can result from prolonged exposure to moderate cold or brief exposure to extreme cold. The body areas most prone to frostbite are the hands, feet, nose, ears and cheeks. Frostbite can be classified into three basic categories: frostnip, superficial frostbite and deep frostbite. 
There are several factors influencing one's susceptibility or risk of cold related injury or illness. These factors can be additive. Thus, it is essential to appreciate each of these factors, along with the associated signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite. For example, exposure to 30 degrees - 50 degrees temperature under wet and windy conditions can be equivalent to sub-zero temperatures with no wind or moisture (see the Wind Chill Index chart)