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Doctors are seeing more frostbite cases this year due to extreme cold

At HCMC, they have 13 patients admitted with frostbite injuries. Several others have been treated and released.

MINNEAPOLIS — Another cold day here in paradise with the wind chill taking temps below zero again.

These sub-zero temperatures can be dangerous, and emergency rooms are seeing the impact. Officials say they are seeing a lot of frostbite patients this winter.

"Thirteen individuals are admitted right now for frostbite,” Hennepin Healthcare physician Dr. Thomas Masters says.

Doctors say nine more patients have been treated and released from HCMC over the last three days.

Dr. Masters says it's been busy lately, but it has actually been busy pretty much the entire winter this year.

"This winter we have had several sustained spells of very cold weather,” Dr. Master explains.

"We saw a lot of people who were out celebrating the New Year and then just underestimated how severe the weather was, and ended up with significant frost bite."

When you combine alcohol and below zero temps, he says even something as simple as walking a few blocks without hats or gloves can be enough for frostbite to set in.

"You know, thinking okay, it's just a couple of blocks to walk, and then something happens, and you can really get exposed to some dangerous situations,” Dr. Masters says.

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Contrary to what you might think, Masters says winter activities, like sledding and skiing, rarely lead to frostbite patients coming into the hospital.

In those situations, people usually bundle up and take breaks to get out from the cold.

"For common scenarios that bring patients in, I would say, unfortunately there's a lot of substance abuse issues involved. Homelessness is a big one, too, and also just people underestimating how bad the weather is too,” Masters says.

HCMC is commonly seen as one of the best frostbite clinics in the country.

Masters is involved in several studies looking at new ways to treat patients.

They're also using HCMC’s hyperbaric chamber to see if that can also help patients heal faster.

"Hyperbaric works to hyper oxygenate patients. So, to give them a super high dose of oxygen,” Masters explains.

Masters says they're still not sure if hyperbaric chambers can actually make a difference. He says up until now, studies have only included a handful of patients. The study they're working on right now has several hundred.

"It's hard to say, to be truthful with you. We're still gathering data on that. I'm going to probably analyze the data here. We have a meeting in a month so, TBD,” Master says.

In the meantime, he's encouraging Minnesotans to bundle up and listen to what your body is telling you.

"You know, being mindful, to make sure you're dressed appropriately can save your life, can save your digits. It's really important, so, don't take it lightly."

And doctors say frostbite cases are very labor intensive. Patients often require a lot of time and care from nurses due to all the procedures and medications they use.

They say it's hard to find enough staff even under normal conditions, let alone the situation we're in right now with COVIC-19.

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