Wear dry clothing and stay inside if possible to prevent frostbite | Popgen Tech


As temperatures reach record lows due to wind chills, the risk of cold-related injuries increases for residents of the Ozarks.

While hospitals will be open and accepting patients, Dr. Zachary Beam, a trauma surgeon at Mercy Hospital Springfield, says the best treatment for cold weather injuries is prevention.

“The most important thing for treating frostbite is prevention in general: limiting the amount of time you spend outside, layering properly — layers, layers, layers of clothing to stay warm,” Beam said. “If you do have to be outside in the elements, make sure you’re protected and limit the amount of time you’re outside.”

Also, people should make sure the layers of clothing they wear are dry, as damp clothing can “accelerate and worsen any potential cold injuries,” Beam said.

more:Dreaming of a white Christmas? You can get more than you bargained for in the Ozarks.

Frostbite can occur within 10 minutes of exposure to unprotected skin.

“Everyone is susceptible: anyone who goes outside for too long without proper protection can get frostbite,” Beam said. “People who don’t have appropriate clothing, people who don’t have enough access to warmth or shelter, are definitely more exposed and at risk (of frostbite).”

Beam also advised people who must spend time outside to have someone accompany them. Hypothermia is another problem associated with low temperatures. If a person cannot get out of the situation on his own, a companion can help him. Some of the warning signs of hypothermia in adults are chills, fatigue, slurred speech, memory loss, confusion, drowsiness, and numb hands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The most common symptoms of frostbite include paleness, numbness, hard skin, and redness or pain in the skin, according to Johns Hopkins. People experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

Treatment for frostbite depends on the severity of the injury, but Beam said he starts with rewarming, which should be enough for minor or mild injuries.

more:A dangerous cold snap is forcing neighborhoods in Springfield to close Thursday

While hot water or a heating pad may seem like a way to restore blood flow to a frozen limb, Beam doesn’t recommend that people do this, as applying extreme heat to a cold injury can make the condition worse. Warm water should be used to warm cold injuries.

“Putting (the injury) next to a fire or a heating pad will change the skin and sensitivity in that area, and that can lead to a thermal burn because you can’t tell how hot (the heat) is,” Beam said. “You can actually burn your skin on top of frostbite, and that’s obviously not something we want to see.”

In more severe cases, frostbite can cut off blood flow to the skin, causing tissue damage or death.

“In the most serious case, it can lead to amputation of the affected areas: fingertips, feet, hands, legs, etc. It depends on how bad things really are,” said Beam.

Shelter will be available for those who need it

For people experiencing homelessness, Springfield’s emergency shelters are open from November 1 to March 31 when the nighttime temperature is 32 degrees or below for four consecutive hours between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Anyone in need of community resources can access them by dialing 211.

People can find out if shelters are open by checking the Crisis Cold Weather Shelter Updates Facebook group or using the Shelter SGF app.

more:Springfield’s Cold Weather Emergency Shelters See Changes for the Coming Winter Season

Below are the places where people can apply for asylum:

  • East Sunshine Church of Christ at 3721 E. Sunshine St. to serve men.
  • Grace United Methodist Church, 600 S. Jefferson Ave., serves women.
  • Asbury United Methodist Church, 1500 S. Campbell Ave., serves people and pets.
  • Unity of Springfield, 2214 E Seminole St., serves people.
  • Revive 66 Campground, 3839 W. Chestnut Expressway, caters to people.
  • Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 1609 N. Summit Ave., serves men.
  • Connecting Grounds, 4341 W. Chestnut Expressway, serves families.

Additional locations will also accept people as shelters fill up. This includes premises 425, 425 W. Walnut St., and Eden Village 1, 2801 E. Division St.

Susan Schuh is a health and public policy reporter for the Springfield News-Leader. Follow her on Twitter @szuchsm. Story idea? Email her at sszuch@gannett.com.


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