Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health sees rise in frostbite during frigid winter months - Eskenazi Health

A year after seeing a record high of frostbite patients, the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health is encouraging Hoosiers to take precaution this winter. With extremely cold temperatures forecasted, frostbite is again a concern.


Frostbite injuries result in damage to skin and underlying tissues caused by extreme cold. Similar to burn injures, the damage to the skin can be very serious and can occur quickly. When wind chills dip into the negatives, frostbite can set in within minutes.


“In the winter months, our burn center sees an increase in the number of patients with frostbite injuries as a result of extreme cold and snowy and icy conditions,” said Dr. Rajiv Sood, medical director of the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center and division chief and professor of plastic surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine. “After seeing an increase in frostbite patients last year, we want to make sure people are taking the proper precautions to prevent cold weather injuries.”


Last year in the month of February alone, 40 percent of patients seen in the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center were due to frostbite. Dr. Sood stressed that, like many burn injuries, frostbite is often preventable. It is important to properly guard yourself against frostbite and other cold-related injuries that accompany the winter weather by wearing appropriate clothing and protection.


Shield skin by adding extra cover to more commonly affected areas, such as the nose, fingers, toes and ears, and dressing in warm layers with scarves, hats, gloves and boots. It is also good practice to wear a waterproof outer shell. Cold winds can also cause frostbite to set in more quickly.


Symptoms of frostbite include a tingling sensation, followed by numbness on the affected area. Skin where frostbite has set in will be hard, pale and cold and will have no feeling. In more severe frostbite cases, the skin will become white and numb and may also have blisters, and blackened or dead tissue may result. Frostbite can potentially cause damage to tendons, muscles, nerves and bone.


Doctors say that if you feel symptoms of frostbite coming on, do not rub or massage the affected area, as it may cause further damage to the skin. Move to a warm area, remove all wet clothing and apply dry, sterile dressings to the frostbitten skin. If the symptoms are severe and normal color and feeling do not return to the area, contact a health care professional immediately.


Verified by the American College of Surgeons and the American Burn Association, the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center treats more than 350 inpatients each year in addition to more than 4,200 outpatient visits with patients from across the country. The Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center is regarded as one of the finest and most progressive burn centers in the United States and is located above the Michael & Susan Smith Emergency Department at Eskenazi Health and the Smith Level I Shock Trauma Center at Eskenazi Health. For more information about the unit or burn prevention, please call 317.880.6900.


CONTACT: Todd Harper
Phone: 317.880.4785
Pager: 317.310.5972 
Email: todd.harper@eskenazihealth.edu