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Dangerously low temperatures create health risks

Increase in frostbite cases among the homeless
Posted at 6:34 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 23:27:59-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The record-setting low temperatures Omaha has been experiencing can have some health repercussions. CHI Health has seen an increase of frostbite cases throughout the metro due to the sub-zero temperatures.

CHI Immanuel Emergency Room physician Corbin Redli said it doesn't take very long to get frostbite. He suggests staying inside if you can, but if you must be outside, be aware of how your body is feeling. If your hands begin to hurt or you lose feeling, these are signs that you need to warm up as soon as possible.

He said most cases lead to blistering, but it can get to a point of necrosis.

"If you’ve got blistering it’s kind of expected but anytime we see redness or black, that’s when we recommend coming in and getting it checked out, making sure we don’t have any long-term issues with it," Dr. Redli said.

While staying inside is the best precaution to take, some people can't. During temperatures as low as we've seen, the Omaha Police Department gets an increase in calls regarding safety concerns, including checking on those who are homeless.

The department, according to Officer Joe Nickerson, works to help people in need get to shelters. Shelters such as the Open Door Mission have seen an increase in the number of people coming in during the past few days.

The Open Door Mission also works to get them cold weather gear.

"There’s obviously more of a need for hats gloves and scarves, due to the mask protocol that we’re using. Bottled waters are needed because people are dehydrated when they come in. Also, blankets are a pretty big deal to folks right now. Just anything to try to keep warm, it's too cold," said Amy Harvey, Open Door Mission chief community relations officer.

The mission has treated a few cases of frostbite. It asks people to contact them if they see a person who may be in need of shelter.