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Doctors warn of frostbite as temps drop in Central Indiana

Posted: 3:30 PM, Jan 19, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-20 10:13:29-05
Lynne Poynter Kurtz Kokomo .jpg

INDIANAPOLIS — As the temperatures drop in Central Indiana, there are health dangers you could face.

At I.U. Health Methodist Hospital in the emergency room, doctors sees patients come in with cases of frostbite due to the cold weather.

It’s something not to mess around with said Dr. Jeff Brakora said.

“The worst-case scenario is you could lose a finger, you could lose a limb, Brakora said.

Frostbite happens when your skin and underlying tissues freeze, and the tissue then dies.

Here are a few signs of frostbite setting in, "If you lose feeling in any of your extremities, in your finger or your toes or your hands,” said Dr. Brakora.“If there's a deep throbbing ache and any sort of color changes. Your hands could become pale, deep red, those could be signs of some underlying deep tissue damage."

In the prevention of frostbite Dr. Brakora suggests:

  • Limit your time outdoors: Frostbite can develop in a matter of minutes
  • Wear multiple loose layers of clothing: Air will trap between the layers which will create heat and to act as insulation.
  • Wear a hat: Make sure that it covers your ears for cold protection.
  • Wear mittens or gloves: It’s suggested to wear mittens over gloves since mittens keep your fingers close together to generate more heat.
  • Wear socks that wick moisture: Wet socks or gloves can accelerate frostbite.

This chart by the National Weather Service indicates how fast frostbite can occur based on the temperature and wind:

NWS wind chill chart.gif
Provided by National Weather Service

Another issue seen in the ER when the temperatures drop into the teens and single digits are people with breathing problems such as asthma, COPD and even cardiac problems.

"There are other conditions that people have,” Brakora said. “Problems with their heart and lungs that can predispose them to worsening of their conditions especially in this cold when they're exhorting themselves.”

There's also the dreaded fear of slips and falls with icy driveways and sidewalks.

If you think you are about to fall, Dr. Brakora said, "Try not to outstretch your arms, so that you break a wrist or something. Try to fall on your trunk."

Of course, if you feel like it is a medical emergency Dr. Brakora says immediately call 911.

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