Department Warns of Health Threats with Dangerous Wind Chills

January 29th, 2019

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (January 29, 2019) – The Allen County Health Department is advising residents take extra precaution to avoid risks of exposure in extreme temperatures forecasted for the community this week.

“I tend to be a bit cavalier about weather myself, but I want to be sure we are all taking these weather predictions seriously,” said Dr. Deborah McMahan, health commissioner for the Allen County Department of Health. “There is a serious medical difference between cold temperatures that are irritating and those that are dangerous. This forecast falls into the dangerous category, so make sure you and your family take the necessary steps to stay safe and healthy.”

The National Weather Service of Northern Indiana has issued a wind chill warning, in effect until 2 p.m. Thursday, with wind chills as low as 50 degrees below zero expected for Northern Indiana and parts of Northwest Ohio. When wind chill temperatures reach those levels, it is possible for skin to develop frostbite within a few minutes of exposure.

Dr. McMahan warned frostbite is not just cold hands and face, but a serious medical injury caused by the freezing of tissue, which not only causes cell death from the cold but also from the rewarming process after exposure.

Symptoms include:

  • cold, numb skin that may look white, gray or feel hard or waxy
  • difficulty moving the affected area (fingers with frostbite may feel clumsy)
  • blisters with fluid or blood inside
  • areas of black skin (a sign of severe frostbite)

If you’re experiencing symptoms of frostbite, be sure to:

  • move to a warmer place as soon as possible
  • remove any wet clothing
  • warm the affected area by placing in warm-to-the-touch water (DO NOT USE HOT WATER) or by using body heat (for example, warming cold, numb fingers under the armpits)
  • avoid causing additional damage by: walking on feet with frostbite (unless it is necessary to get to safety); rubbing the affected area; warming the area near a stove or fire (numb skin can be burned by accident)
  • get to a hospital as soon as possible if symptoms do not improve

Prevention is always easier than treatment. So while the department is advising the public avoid going outside if possible as the best prevention, the following precautions are recommended for dressing warmly to ensure the least amount of skin exposure if time outdoors is necessary:

  • several layers of loose-fitting clothing, including long underwear; fleece or wool clothing; and a coat and pants that protect against wind, rain, and snow
  • a hat that fully covers ears
  • face protection, such as a ski mask
  • sunglasses or goggles
  • mittens (will keep hands warmer than gloves)
  • warm, water-resistant shoes or boots