Eskenazi Health Encourages Safety During Cold Temperatures

Indianapolis, Jan. 16, 2020 – With winter weather now back in Central Indiana, everyone needs to take proper precautions whenever going outside during particularly cold spells and do everything possible to prevent frostbite that occurs most commonly on exposed fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. 

Frostbite ensues when skin is exposed to extreme cold that causes the top layer of skin and some of the tissues underneath to freeze. In many cases and with the right care, frostbite-damaged skin can recover. However, in serious cases, tissue death or loss can occur, and in severe cases frostbitten areas may need to be amputated.

“Frigid temperatures are forecast to blast through Central Indiana in the next few days, so we all must take the proper precautions to avoid injuries from frostbite,” said Dr. Rajiv Sood, medical director of the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center. “We treat numerous frostbite injuries every year and we encourage everyone to do everything possible to avoid the serious damage resulting from excessive exposure to frigid temperatures during the winter months.”

Frostbite reveals itself in the earliest stages when you notice your skin becoming very cold and red, then numb, hard and pale.

Additional symptoms 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.

It is important to properly protect yourself against frostbite and other cold-related injuries that accompany the winter weather by wearing layers of appropriate protective clothing that fit loosely to trap air and act as an insulator. Wear undergarments that will keep moisture away from your skin, with waterproof and windproof outer garments to protect you from wind, rain and snow. Your hat or hood should fully cover your ears, and although gloves won’t limit the use of your fingers, wearing mittens in colder weather will keep your hands warmer.

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 does not return to the area, contact a health care professional immediately.

The Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health also urges caution in regards to space heaters.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters cause about one-third of all winter house fires and 80 percent of all winter heating fire deaths. The Consumer Product Safety Commission states that more than 25,000 residential fires, 300 deaths and 6,000 trips to emergency departments occur in the United States each year from the improper use of space heaters

Small space heaters are typically used when the main heating system is inadequate and can boost the temperature of rooms used by individuals who are sensitive to cold, especially elderly persons, without overheating your entire home.

Always give space heaters extra space and be certain the unit has an automatic off switch. Also be sure to read the manufacturer’s warnings and instructions carefully, keep a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters, have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed and be sure to use the right kind of fuel for your gas-run space heater specified by the manufacturer.

Plug electric space heaters directly into a wall outlet and do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater. Always unplug and properly store the unit when not in use, and inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use. If frayed, worn or damaged, do not use the heater.

Verified by the American College of Surgeons and the American Burn Association, the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center is regarded as one of the finest and most progressive burn centers in the United States. For more information on burn prevention, please call the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center’s burn prevention hotline at 1.866.339.BURN.


CONTACT: Tom Surber
Phone: 317.880.4793
Cell: 317.402.9327

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