MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Bitter cold weather means hospitals are expecting to see more cases of frostbite.
Dr. Ryan Fey at Hennepin County Medical Center said they see about 25 cases of frostbite on average in a year. However, last year’s brutal winter brought a record 200 severe cases into HCMC.
“We usually see 25 severe cases per year. That’s not counting minor cases we can treat in a clinic,” Fey said.
North Dakota resident Josh Diseth had to be airlifted to HCMC on Saturday for severe frostbite.
He told WCCO-TV he slipped and hit his head while walking home near Devil’s Lake, North Dakota.
“This can happen to anyone, you have to use your head,” Diseth said.
Diseth said he was not properly dressed for the cold and spent up to three hours in 30 degrees below zero weather. He has a long road to recovery ahead for his badly injured feet and does not want anyone else to suffer the same way.
Dr. Fey said normal frostbite and frostnip can happen in minutes in these extreme temperatures, but usually the redness and pain go away within a day or so.
More severe superficial frostbite can cause blisters that usually heal within a week, but add up enough of these instances and deep frostbite becomes more likely, or factors like chronic pain, stiffness and impaired function.
“One of the biggest factors is repeated freezing and thawing cycles,” Dr. Fey said.
Fey said people should make sure skin is completely warmed up and healed before heading back outside in these conditions. Fey said a lot of people he sees are like Diseth, between 20 to 60 years old and were not expecting to be outside for an extended amount of time.
He said the best bet for people of all ages is to always dress as though they will be outside for a while. The biggest mistake he sees is when people try rubbing their hands together for warmth.
Fey said that rubbing is actually worse for the skin and causes more damage.
Warm water is a good short-term solution to heat up any mildly impacted areas, Fey said.