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Record number of frostbite patients in UCHealth Burn and Frostbite Center

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AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — A record-breaking number of patients with frostbite are currently at the UCHealth Burn and Frostbite Center on the Anschutz Campus, the health care provider said Monday.

Twenty-six people are hospitalized with frostbite.

“In my entire career I’ve never seen this many in two days,” said Dr. Anne Wagner, the director of the center. “We’ve had the same number in the last 48 hours that we average in an entire year.”  

Brutally cold air temperatures blanketed the state throughout the weekend, with Denver seeing a record low of 14 below zero on Sunday night.

Health specialists say it only takes 30 minutes for frostbite to set in when the temperature drops to 5 degrees and the wind speed is 30 mph.

At 5 degrees below zero and a wind speed of 30 mph, frostbite will happen in 10 minutes.

Alec Grimes feels fortunate to still have his feet. He suffered 4th degree frostbite burns in 2016.

“It was definitely one of the scariest, most traumatic things in my life,” Grimes said.

He now collects winter gear for the many homeless frostbite patients who are admitted to UCHealth every year.

Signs and symptoms of frostbite include:

  • Shivering. It is the first sign the body is losing heat, so don’t ignore it.
  • Numbness.
  • Pale color to the skin.
  • Clumsy movements.
  • Pain that persists for 45 minutes after rewarming.
  • Following rewarming, increased redness or discoloration.

UCHealth says there are many ways to prevent frostbite, including dressing in layers and keeping outwear dry. Covering your head is also recommended.

If you suspect you have frostbite, immediately seek medical attention. Getting proper treatment within 12 to 24 hours of rewarming of the injury can save the frozen areas from possible amputation.

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