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UCHealth sees increase in frostbite cases in Denver area

Posted at 3:31 PM, Jan 29, 2023

DENVER — As bitterly cold temperatures once again settle over the Denver area, UCHealth is reporting an increase in frostbite patients and is reminding residents just how fast exposure to the cold can cause problems.

The hospital reported Sunday that is there have been 34 admissions so far this year at the UCHealth Burn and Frostbite Center. Last year, the unit saw 30 admissions for the entire winter season.

While it’s unclear why the hospital is seeing an uptick in frostbite cases, a colder-than-average winter season in Colorado, thanks in part to the influences of La Niña, could be playing a role.

UCHealth said frostbite can happen in a matter of minutes. It only takes 30 minutes for frostbite to set in when the temperature is 5 degrees and the wind speed is 30 mph. At -5 degrees and a wind speed of 30 mph, frostbite will happen in 10 minutes.

Temperatures in Denver will dip to near zeroby early Monday morning. A wind chill advisory is set to take effect over the I-25 corridor and across the eastern plains until 9 a.m. Monday.

UCHealth’s Burn and Frostbite Center offers the following tips if someone suspects frostbite due to cold exposure:

  • Prevent additional exposure to the cold.
  • Rewarm the affected area in warm (not hot) water for 15 – 30 minutes.
  • Keep the affected area elevated to reduce swelling.
  • Use over-the counter pain medication like ibuprofen if the affected area is painful upon warming.
  • Try to avoid walking on frostbitten feet.

If the skin appears blue, bluish-gray or blisters form when the skin warms, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent further tissue damage.

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