Doctors warn of frostbite ahead of dangerously cold temperatures

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Doctors are providing a warning about dangerously cold temperatures moving into the area this weekend.

Kids and seniors are at particular risk because they’re less likely to be aware of the signs and effects of frostbite. People with circulation problems are also at great risk, including people who are diabetic or are smokers.

Dr. Matt Connelly, emergency physician with Community Hospital, reminds people that if you’re going to be outside, you need to do things differently to protect yourself.

“The biggest thing we worry about is frostbite,” Dr. Connelly said.

It doesn’t take long with temperatures in the single digits, even lower when you consider windchill.

“People are just walking the dog, shoveling, when it’s 5 degrees, 10 degrees,” Connelly said. “Frostbite can set in as little as 20-30 minutes. It’s really surprising how quickly it can happen.”

So layer it up. It’s the thin pockets of air between layers that help keep your body warmer than one big layer.

Wetness is also the enemy and greatly speeds up the process where your skin and extremities start to freeze.

It’s why parents need to be especially careful with young kids if they are going to be out playing in the snow.

But this weekend may be one for nonstop indoor activities.

“Any exposed skin, especially when it is windy, especially when it’s cold as it’s going to be this weekend, it really is key,” Connelly said.

Don’t forget, if you feel like you may have a case of frostbite, don’t massage affected areas. Use room temparature water to gently warm your hands and increase circulation.

But if it’s not getting better or there’s significant pain, it’s time to seek professional help.

“It’s just really not something to take lightly, come on in and see us,” Connelly said. “This is what we do.”

For those hitting the road, make sure you have an emergency kit just in case something happens.

We talked with a few people on Monument Circle on Friday afternoon. Many like John Leavell said they planned to take it easy. He was planning on quality time by the fire with his family.

“I suggest you stay home, it’s the warmest place,” Leavell.

Lauren Hill was in town this weekend with her family from Tennessee. She actually drove north because she loves the cold and snow.

“Make sure you have hat, gloves, your heat sources,” Hill said. “Grab a coffee, but a little Irish cream in there and stay warm.”

Warning signs for frostbite include white or grayish-yellow skin, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy and numbness. Because of that numbness, it’s often first spotted by someone else.