Eskenazi Health Warns of Potential Frostbite as Blizzard-Like Conditions Hit Indy Area

Indianapolis, Dec. 22, 2022 – Weather forecasters are predicting Indiana will be hit by a record cold blast later today and the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health wants to warn the public of the real danger of frostbite and other cold-related injuries. 

Frostbite often mirrors injuries a person experiences when burned and can result in life-long skin damage.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), what constitutes extreme cold and its effects can vary across different areas of the country. Extreme cold is a dangerous situation that can bring on health emergencies in susceptible people, such as those without shelter or who are stranded, or who live in a home that is poorly insulated or without heat.

“Cold weather and frostbite injuries are easily avoidable for most of us, yet we see too many of these unfortunate cases each year due to tragic carelessness, lack of proper planning and neglect,” said Brett Hartman, D. O., medical director of the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health. “Staying inside is the best thing we can all do during times like these, and when we have to go out it’s imperative that we wear proper cold weather clothing and do everything possible to be outside only for short periods of time.”

When outside during these difficult weather conditions, adults and children should always wear a hat, a scarf or knit mask to cover the face and mouth, sleeves that are snug at the wrist, mittens (they are warmer than gloves), water-resistant coat and boots, and several layers of loose-fitting clothing.

Dr. Hartman warns that the catalyst for frostbite is when extreme cold hits exposed skin and causes some of the tissues underneath to freeze. Tissue death or loss may result from frostbite, and the most severe cases may require amputation, although with the proper care and attention, frostbite cases can fully heal.

Frostbite first appears when skin becomes 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 feeling may be lost 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.

While the temperature differences between flames and Arctic blasts are drastically different, excessive exposure to either can lead to similar damage, which is why those injuries are treated at Eskenazi Health’s Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center. If you believe you’ve contracted frostbite, Eskenazi Health specialists suggest refraining from rubbing or massaging the affected area, which 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, please seek medical help or call 9-1-1.

Space Heater Safety

Many individuals utilize small space heaters to increase the temperature of drafty rooms during the winter months, and the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health urges caution in regards to using those mechanisms.

According to the latest U.S. Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment report from the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters are the second leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths. Local fire departments respond to an estimated average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment per year accounting for 14% of all reported home fires. These fires resulted in annual losses of 500 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. 

Eskenazi Health recommends that you study closely and adhere to the space heater 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, use electric space heaters with automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements, and always use the correct fuel for your gas-run space heater specified by the manufacturer.

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: Todd Harper
Phone: 317.402.9327

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