Eskenazi Health Emergency Physicians Suggest Caution in Freezing Weather

Severe winter weather overexposure can cause a variety of injuries

Indianapolis, Dec. 20, 2022 – Bone-chilling temperatures in the single digits will soon envelop Central Indiana, so it’s critically important that everyone prepare to face the serious and potentially debilitating health and safety concerns caused by exceedingly cold weather.

Staying warm in these frigid conditions is a challenge because the longer one remains outside, the greater the risk is of developing dehydration, hypothermia, trench foot, frostbite and other similar health concerns. One must also be aware of slick ice-and snow-covered roads and sidewalks, where injuries due to falls happen often in those conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature.

“It’s absolutely vital that we preserve our body’s internal temperature whenever we’re outside during these challenging winter months,” said Tyler Stepsis, M.D., medical director of the Michael & Susan Smith Emergency Department at Eskenazi Health. “The more you move while outside, the better your circulation will be, and always be sure to wear soft clothing against your skin along with many layers of warm apparel, with more wind-resistant materials nearer to the outside elements.”

Be cognizant that infants, young children and the elderly are the ones most likely to be harmed by extremely cold weather, so checking on those you know regularly is always a good idea. Here are some useful tips that will help you stay warm during the winter months.

  • Monitoring and maintaining body temperature, especially for infants and older adults who lose heat more quickly, is very important.
  • Heat your home properly and safely, using only certified space heaters and fireplaces when necessary.
  • Drink plenty of warm beverages, like tea or hot chocolate, to keep you warm.
  • Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks, as these may contribute to a decrease in body temperature and cause your body to lose heat at a more rapid rate.
  • Always wear a hat, scarf and insulated gloves or mittens to reduce the chance of frostbite or injuries to your extremities.
  • Avoid overexertion when participating in outdoor chores or activities, as cold temperatures put a significant strain on the body, increasing the risk of heart attack or chills due to sweating.

Heavy snow and ice storms are also serious threats to the roads during the winter months, often stalling or paralyzing entire areas, cities or regions. The National Weather Service states that approximately 70 percent of injuries from snow or ice are in the form of motor vehicle accidents, with 25 percent resulting in people caught outside in a storm.

“Staying inside as much as you can and not driving are the two most important strategies to adhere to during times like these,” Dr. Stepsis said. “These extreme conditions never last for too long, so take it easy and do everything possible to keep your family and yourself as safe and warm as possible.”

Dr. Stepsis believes having an emergency kit in your car that includes items such as blankets, jumper cables, a flashlight, ice scraper, pocketknife, antifreeze and granola bars, can provide peace of mind during these treacherous stretches of weather, and be potentially life-saving if things go wrong on the roads.


CONTACT: Tom Surber
Phone: 317.402.9327


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