Local doctors already seeing frostbite cases

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Gina Duwe
Friday, January 3, 2014

Frostbite and hypothermia already have sent several area residents to seek medical attention.

In the past few weeks, doctors at Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville have treated several cases of frostbite and hypothermia, said Dr. Jay MacNeal, EMS medical director, “even with the weather not being as cold as it's going to be.”

“If people are out walking around, rethink that,” he said.

People headed to bars should have a designated driver and plans to not walk home, he said. Pets also should be brought indoors.

With wind chills forecast to dip to 20 to 55 below zero, it will only take 5 to 10 minutes for exposed skin to suffer frostbite, according to the National Weather Service.

“It's a huge concern for elderly and kids, because they don't know when they're getting cold,” MacNeal said.

The cold cases that doctors already have seen have involved vehicle failures where people were outdoors for prolonged periods, as well as intoxicated people who had been outside, he said.

MacNeal hadn't seen this yet, but advised skin damage can happen quickly for confused elderly persons who get outside.

“It's important to check on friends, neighbors and relatives,” he said.

People should cover exposed skin and stay dry when outdoors. Signs of frostbite include an itching, numbness/tingling in toes and fingers and skin discoloration, he said. If people think they have frostbite, they should seek medical attention for warming and medications to help restore blood flow, he said.

Doctors use the same device that helps cool cardiac arrest patients to warm hypothermia patients by placing a big pad on the chest and thighs that circulates warm fluids, he said. 

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