Eskenazi Health Encourages Everyone to Take Steps to Avoid Frostbite

Indianapolis, Jan. 28, 2019 – Extreme cold temperatures are forecasted to hit Central Indiana this week and the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health is warning the public to take extreme caution to avoid the excruciating pain and discomfort of frostbite and other cold weather injuries.

Proper precautions are necessary during frigid cold spells and frostbite is a tremendous concern for anyone who ventures outside when the temperatures and wind chill drop below 0 degrees. Forecasts call for a polar vortex this week resulting in the coldest temperatures of the season.

Caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues most commonly found on the fingers, toes, nose, ears cheeks and chin, frostbite reveals itself in the earliest stages when you notice your skin becoming very cold and red, then numb, hard and pale. Although frostbite is most common on exposed skin in cold, windy weather, it may also be found on skin covered by gloves or other clothing.

“Our burn center has already seen a number of patients with frostbite injuries as a result of our recent dangerous stretch of frigid weather,” said Dr. Rajiv Sood, medical director of the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center. “Frostbite is a very serious injury and we encourage everyone to take all the precautions necessary to avoid the frigid cold air associated with the winter season.”

Additional symptoms of frostbite include a tingling sensation, followed by numbness on the affected area. Frostbite will make skin hard, pale and cold and there will be no feeling in those areas. In more severe frostbite cases, the skin becomes white and numb and may also have blisters, and blackened or dead tissue may result. Untreated frostbite may potentially cause damage to tendons, muscles, nerves and bone.

Dr. Sood stressed that, like many burn injuries, frostbite can be avoided. It is important to properly protect yourself against frostbite and other cold-related injuries that accompany the winter weather by wearing appropriate protective clothing.

By adding extra cover to more commonly affected areas, such as the nose, fingers, toes and ears, you may shield your skin from brutally cold weather. Dressing in warm layers with scarves, hats, gloves and boots is always prudent, and you should wear a waterproof outer shell. Be aware that the bitter winter winds will cause frostbite to accelerate and establish itself more quickly.

If you feel symptoms of frostbite, physicians suggest refraining from rubbing or massaging 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 is the only verified adult burn program in Indiana and treats more than 350 inpatients each year in addition to more than 4,700 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.

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