INDIANAPOLIS — Regardless of snow and ice, a major concern over the next couple of days is the bitter cold. Emergency doctors tell us they are worried people will face serious health risks if they don’t stay warm.
Dr. Tyler Stepsis, chief of emergency medicine at Eskenazi Health, said he is particularly worried about those people in unstable housing situations.
“A lot of times, even folks who have a place to live but don’t have heat, you can get cold injuries just as bad as you can living on the streets,” Stepsis said.
Tonight’s low dips below zero, and the wind chill is expected to dip even lower. People should dress in layers and try to prevent clothing from getting wet.
Doctors say people can develop frostbite within 30 minutes or so. Dr. Dan O’Donnell, Indianapolis EMS director, said “especially if you have a direct exposure, you have no protection between you and the elements, it can happen pretty quick.”
Healthcare professionals say the progression of frostbite begins in your extremities like your nose, ears, toes and fingers when the skin is cold and tingly.
“As that gets worse and worse obviously the pain gets more severe, the color doesn’t come back to your hands, that’s when we really start worrying about frostbite,” O’Donnell said.
Worse still is if your skin begins developing blisters.
“Then all of a sudden you start to see kind of a dusty hue and kind of bleeding blisters and then finally that doesn’t come back,” Stepsis said. “It’s one of those things that eventually over the span of a couple weeks those digits will turn black and fall off.”
Doctors say the key is getting warm as quickly as possible and getting blood flow to those body parts.
“Make sure you don’t have any restrictive clothing on, you’re getting good blood flow and then see how you do from there,” O’Donnell said.
Doctors are also concerned about hypothermia. They say shivering is a good thing as it’s your body’s way of generating heat. Hypothermia’s symptoms include a lack of shivering and an altered mental state.
“So they are cold, and they are just not making sense to you, that’s a reason to call 911,” O’Donnell explained.
Doctors also urge people to keep drinking water, not alcohol, to avoid dehydration. And, check on your family members and neighbors to make sure they’re warm.