Doctors warn against exposure to extreme cold

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INDIANAPOLIS (January 18, 2016) - Emergency room doctors in downtown Indianapolis are urging Hoosiers to be smart and play it safe during the bitterly cold weather gripping central Indiana this week.

Dr. Matt Connelly, and ER Physician at Eskenazi Hospital said a -15 degree windchill can cause injury to exposed skin more quickly than most people realize.

“With the weather how we have it outside right now, you could potentially get frostbite in as little as 20 to 30 minutes time,” Connelly said.

Connelly said recognizing the early symptoms of frostbite can keep you from serious injury.

“Starting with numbness, tingling, kind of pins and needles in your fingertips, discoloration and pain,” he said.  “And that can really lead to very very serious injuries down the road.”

Thankfully, the coldest weather of the year so far arrived just in time for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday.  Connelly said that timing was a blessing, helping to keep many people at home.  As of Monday afternoon, the Eskenazi Emergency Room had not received any patients suffering from frostbite.

But schools, businesses and government offices will reopen Tuesday morning, when air temperatures are expected to be below 10 degrees.  Aside from frostbite, Connelly said people also need to be familiar with the signs of hypothermia, when internal body functions begin to slow down.

“Your brain stops working as well as it can, your heart stops working appropriately,” Connelly said.  “Your blood is not pumping as efficiently as it could.”

Early symptoms of hypothermia include shortness of breath, dizziness or confusion.  It can also be a warning sign if you notice your shivering has stopped.  Doctors say if you notice any of these symptoms, you need to seek shelter and warm up immediately.

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