Doctors at HCMC's burn unit see uptick in frostbite cases over the past 24 hours

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Local doctors have a warning for people across the Twin Cities as temperatures plummet.

Experts say neighbors should take the right steps to stay out of the hospital. Meanwhile, doctors are emphasizing how preventable frostbite is.

Severely swollen, blackened and damaged fingers, hands, feet and toes show the dangers of frostbite.

“My kids always ask, ‘Why do we live where my nostrils freeze?’” said Allison Dolence. “Yes, it’s cold.”

Breck Morris was bundled up waiting for his bus downtown. He said his cousin had a stint with homelessness that left him exposed to the cold last winter.

“He was out and got frostbite to his toes and had to lose them,” Morris said.

According to HCMC Dr. Ryan Fey, “All of these toes are at risk and are likely going to require amputation.”

Fey works in the hospital’s burn center where he’s seen a recent uptick in frostbite patients from across the region.

“Over the past week, things have really accelerated,” he said.

HCMC has treated at least 28 frostbite patients since Jan. 1. Six of those cases alone happened in the last 24 hours. Two of them were so severe the people had to be admitted for care.

“It’s been all sorts of patients from little children to athletes to homeless individuals,” Fey said.

Items such as dry hats, boots and mittens are key to cover up along with over-preparing for the time you plan to spend outside just in case, but try to stay outside less than 30 minutes.

After you’ve warmed up for a while and your skin is still waxy or doesn’t look right, the expert says to get help right away.

“Those are the ones we need to see right away, the treatments we have to available amputation are time limited,” Fey added.

Despite the old adage of drinking alcohol to stay warm, experts say don’t do that, especially right now because those drinks can impair judgement and can lessen the impact of the warning signs from your body.