AKRON, Ohio - The dangerously cold temperatures that have lingered across Northeast Ohio are responsible for the largest number of frostbite cases in years that are being treated in the burn unit of a local hospital.
Akron Children's Hospital reports five patients were admitted to their burn unit suffering from frostbite in addition to others that have been treated as outpatients.
Dr. John Crow says that is more then they might typically see in an entire season and the cases all have been since last Friday.
Frostbite is a dangerous condition in which the cold damages tissues, frequently fingers and toes.
In many cases the damaged fingers and toes might need to be amputated.
"We had quite a few from this weekend and I think the reason is the severe cold was around the celebration of the New Year and so many of the patients were intoxicated. Sometimes they are homeless and in a little bit more severe situation," said Crow.
"What we are seeing is that your hands and your feet are at risk andwhen you present to a burn center with the kind of frostbite you are seeing you may very well lose parts of your fingers or even all of your fingers which is obviously a lifelong disability," he added.
Crow says typically people who are outdoors skiing or sledding are at low risk since many of them are prepared for the elements.
He strongly suggests protecting all exposed skin from prolonged exposure to the elements, layering clothing, wearing loose clothing including hats and gloves. Mittens might be better than gloves for keeping hands warm.
He also suggests having an 'escape plan' if you start to experience numbness or pain because of the cold.
"The first recommendation is to go in, to get in a warm environment and then you should use lukewarm water. They say body temperature, most people don't really know what that feels like but you should not put it under hot water; you should really use room temperature, lukewarm water because you will just injure the tissues more and you won't feel it, if you to that point you really won't feel the injury so you will burn on top of the cold injury itself; you'll burn your skin," said Crow.
He also strongly suggest avoiding smoking and drinking, anything that might impair sensation.
"If you are somebody who is going to be out in the woods for six or eight hours, if you have a job where you are going to be exposed especially with the high wind chills make sure you are properly dressed for it," said Crow.