This month’s record cold has led to an increase in burn patients, said the head of the Augusta burn center.
“Over the past week or so, we have seen an increase in burn patients over recent winters, but we have also seen far colder temperatures for a sustained amount of time,” said Dr. Fred Mullins, the president of Joseph M. Still Burn Centers Inc. and the medical director of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital. “That has certainly had an impact on the number of patients we have seen, as well as the severity of the burns.”
The burn center treated 20 people over the particularly cold week for winter-related burns. The low of 12 degrees on Jan. 7 broke records set in 1970. Mullins said the burns were typical for this time of year, just more of them.
He said heaters are one of the main causes of burns during winter months, and he recommends creating a 3-foot safety zone around heating units that is free of flammable materials.
Heat-related burns aren’t the only issues doctors see when temperatures drop. Frostbite, which occurs when body parts are exposed to extremely cold temperatures, can cause serious damage. In cold and especially windy weather, frostbite can occur in minutes.
Hard or pale skin or the feeling of pins and needles in the affected area can be signs of possible frostbite.
“You can’t be too cautious with frostbite,” Mullins said. “If you have a question about it, get checked out. Often, the earlier it can be treated, the better the outcome.”