Frostbite patients spike at Akron Children's Hospital, surgeon warns people to take precautions

AKRON, Ohio - A surgeon at Akron Children's Hospital is worried this could be one of the worst years in terms of the number of frostbite patients.

Over the weekend, six patients — five adults and one child — were treated at the burn unit of the hospital. Three of them remained in the hospital on Tuesday and face the possibility of toe or finger amputations.

In addition, a hypothermia patient at Summa Akron City Hospital was expected to be transferred to Akron Children's.

By comparison, ACH saw only two other in-patient frostbite patients in the rest of 2017 and just one patient in 2016.

"I've been in our burn center for 24 years, going on almost 25 years, and this has been one of the worst winters for frostbite," said Dr. John Crow, the chair of the department of surgery. "It is concerning because it looks like the next 10 days are going to be in the single digits at times."

The brutal temperatures and whipping winds are contributing to the spike in frostbite cases, but Dr. Crow said another factor is intoxicated people making bad decisions by staying outside too long with inadequate clothing.

Children and the elderly are also at higher risk.

Frostbite warning signs include pain and blistering along with numbness and discolored skin.

Crow stressed that protecting extremities like fingers and toes is extremely important, but added that bundling up to protect your core is also vital.

"If your core is cold, your hands get cold so you have to stay warm. Keep as much skin covered as much as possible. Keep something on your head. You lose a lot of heat through your head so it isn't just the exposure of the hands and feet to the cold. It's the fact that your whole body is cold so your blood vessels clamp down and cut down blood supply to those areas," he said.

If you're feeling the possible effects of frostbite, Dr. Crow advises get inside and warm your hands with room temperature water.

"You'll cause a burn on top of it if you try to warm it with anything more than that," he said.

If pain persists, Dr. Crow said seek medical attention.

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