Cases of frostbite in the Northland increase

By KBJR News 1

January 7, 2014 Updated Jan 7, 2014 at 7:18 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Northland doctors say this has already been a bad winter for frostbite and they expect this season to bring more cases in the Twin Ports than usual.

They're urging people to bundle up before braving the elements.

"It's been cold out there," said Dave Miller, owner of Northwest Outlet in Superior.

Experts from Essentia Health St. Mary's in Duluth say they've already seen as many cases of frostbite this winter as they typically see in a full season, and winter in the Northland has only just begun.

"Frostbite injuries, although it's freezing instead of burning, damages the skin essentially the same way that a burn does," said Billy Myers, a registered nurse at Essentia Health in Duluth.

Registered nurses and physicians say it's important to get treatment right away if you suspect frostbite on any part of your body.

"Where people tend to run into trouble is by repeated exposure. If you're reluctant to present or reluctant to even acknowledge the degree of injury or illness that you might have then I feel like you're more at risk for sustaining that repeated exposure, which is where the real trouble lies," said Nick Itzin, a physician at Essentia Health.

They say it's all about layers... layers... and more layers.

"Layers that you can take off if you get warm, put on when you get cold, that's what makes the difference," said Miller.

Experts say when numbness turns to no feeling there is a good chance you're getting frostbite, and that numbing is a signal to warm up.

"If you have a frostbite injury then you're going to lose the integrity of your skin and then that allows bacteria," said Myers.

...bacteria that can cause life-threatening infections, highlighting the importance of keeping wounds like these clean.

Northland physicians say having enough coverage on your toes, hands, and face is extremely important, as they are the areas that tend to get frostbitten the most quickly.

Elsa Robins