Indianapolis, Feb. 4, 2021 – With temperatures forecast in the near future to plummet well below the freezing mark, the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health wants everyone to take the proper precautions to avoid the terrible agony of frostbite and additional cold weather injuries, and also be cognizant of the dangers associated with improper use of space heaters.

Painful cold weather injuries are the result of individuals going outside without the proper protection most commonly on their exposed face, fingers, toes and ears. The horrors of frostbite occur when extreme cold causes the exposed top layer of skin and some of the tissues underneath to freeze. In serious cases of frostbite, tissue death or loss may occur, and when it comes to severe incidences, frostbitten areas may require amputation. With the proper care in many cases, frostbite damage can recover.

“Central Indiana is on the verge of freezing conditions in the coming days and we urge everyone to do all they can to avoid cold weather injuries that could lead to frostbite,” said Dr. Brett Hartman,  medical director of the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health. “Our burn center always treats cold weather and frostbite injuries this time of year and we encourage you to only go outside when you have to, only stay outside for short periods of time and bundle up as much as you can while outdoors during this unusual and dangerous cold spell.”

Dr. Hartman said 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.

If you have to go outside during extreme cold weather, be sure to wear 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. Always wear a hat or hood that fully covers your ears, and instead of wearing gloves consider wearing mittens instead that will keep your hands warmer.

If you have any inkling that you’ve contracted frostbite, Eskenazi Health 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 latest U.S. Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment report from the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment is the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires and the third-leading cause of home fire deaths. More than half (53 percent) of all home heating fire deaths resulted from fires that began when heating equipment was too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that portable electric heaters are involved in about 1,100 fires per year, resulting in about 50 deaths, dozens of injuries and millions of dollars in property loss.

When main heating systems are inadequate, individuals utilize small space heaters to increase the temperature of rooms. It’s necessary to always give space heaters extra space, and if you ever use one be sure it has an automatic off switch. If you decide to use a space heater, we recommend that you study with great care the manufacturer’s warnings and instructions. Always keep a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters, have a qualified professional install your stationary space heating equipment, remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed and always use the correct fuel for your gas-run space heater specified by the manufacturer.

Always plug electric space heaters directly into a wall outlet and do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater. When not in use, always unplug and properly store the unit, 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.

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CONTACT: Tom Surber
Phone: 317.880.4793
Cell: 317.402.9327
Email: thomas.surber@eskenazihealth.edu

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