Prince Harry's penile frostbite: Can your penis freeze?

Stock picture of Prince Harry who has revealed he was suffering from penile frostbite. (Getty Images)
Prince Harry has revealed he was suffering from penile frostbite at William and Kate's wedding. (Getty Images)

Prince Harry has revealed that he was suffering from penile frostbite during Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton.

In a turn of events no one expected, the Duke of Sussex said he was impacted by the intimate condition at the April 2011 celebration.

The reveal was made in his new autobiography, Spare, which became available for sale at bookstores in Spain this week - five days before the official date of publication.

In it, Harry reportedly describes his painful experience with frostbite following a 200-mile expedition to the North Pole in March 2011. While the condition impacted his ears and cheeks and he also said it affected his, ahem, "todger".

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In his book, Harry explains that while standing by his brother's side during his wedding in April 2011, he was still recovering from his injuries.

"Pa was very interested, and sympathetic about the discomfort of my frost-nipped ears and cheeks," he writes, about the night before the wedding. "While the ears and cheeks were already healing, the todger wasn’t," he continued. "It was becoming more of an issue by the day.”

Following the wedding, Harry says that he went to the doctor after using Elizabeth Arden cream, Page Six reports.

Elsewhere in the book, Harry reveals that he was circumcised as a baby, despite many sources suggesting that he wasn’t.

“There were countless stories in books, and papers about Willy and me not being circumcised,” he wrote, according to The Independent. “Mummy had forbidden it, they all said, and while it’s absolutely true that the chance of getting penile frostbite is much greater if you’re not circumcised, all the stories were false. I was snipped as a baby.”

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Prince Harry on the Walking with the Wounded expedition in March 2011, which lead to him suffering penile frostbite. (Getty Images)
Prince Harry on the Walking with the Wounded expedition in March 2011, which lead to him suffering penile frostbite. (Getty Images)

What is penile frostbite?

According to the NHS frostbite is damage to skin and tissue caused by exposure to freezing temperatures, typically any temperature below -0.55C (31F).

While it can affect any part of your body, the extremities, such as the hands, feet, ears, nose and lips, are most likely to be affected.

Symptoms of frostbite typically begin with the affected parts feeling cold and painful. If exposure to the cold continues, the NHS says you may feel pins and needles before the area becomes numb as the tissues freeze.

“Frostbite is a condition which usually occurs in fingers and toes in extreme cold circumstances," adds Dr Stuart Sanders, GP at The London General Practice.

"The arterial blood supply is shut down by spasm in the artery and tissue that the artery supplies is denied oxygen as a consequence. This leads to tissue damage which is very painful."

Dr Sanders says that while the same principle applies to penis frostbite, it is in fact very rare.

“It can cause severe pain which continues for some time during the healing process and, in extreme cases, death of the affected tissues, known as gangrene," he continues.

“I understand Prince Harry had recently returned from a trek to the North Pole in freezing conditions. He would have been in the recovery phase at the time in question; this would have caused pain.”

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Treating frostbite

Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at Chemist Click online pharmacy advises that the treatment for uncomplicated frostbite is to expose the affected area to a warmer area, but suggests it is done so under medical advice/supervision.

"A bath at temperatures of 37 degrees Celsius can be used," he says. "Hot water should not be used. The process is painful and may require painkillers."

The NHS adds that it is important not to rewarm the affected area if there's a chance of it freezing again, as this can lead to further tissue damage.

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Stock picture of Prince Harry in January 2020. (Getty Images)
Prince Harry's autobiography has been released in Spain, ahead of the release in the UK next week. (Getty Images)

When to get medical attention

If you think you or someone else may have frostbite, call your GP or NHS 111 for advice.

If the symptoms are more severe or there are signs of hypothermia, such as constant shivering or fast breathing (hyperventilation), the NHS advises you go immediately to your nearest A&E.

A doctor will examine the affected area, check your vital signs, and ask how you got frostbite.

You may need a follow-up appointment or referral to a specialist, as the full extent of a frostbite injury often isn't apparent until a few days later.

Preventing frostbite

Frostbite can largely be prevented by taking precautions during cold weather and avoiding unnecessary exposure to cold temperatures.

The combination of wind and cold temperatures (wind chill) can also cause a rapid drop in temperature, so the NHS recommends avoiding going out when it's cold and windy, when possible.

The site also suggests wearing appropriate clothing that protects your extremities, such as:well-insulated boots and a thick pair of well-fitting socks.

Although in Prince Harry's case he may have benefited from a winter warmer protecting another of his extremities...