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HCMC Preparing For Influx Of Frostbite Patients As Temps Drop

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The extreme cold is here in Minnesota, and doctors are warning about frostbite.

Hennepin County Medical Center expects to see an uptick in the number of patients coming in with frostbite as the cold sets in. They typically treat about 50-75 frostbite victims each year, and Dr. Jon Gayken -- a burn and trauma surgeon at the hospital -- says there's a common factor in those cases.

"We anticipate seeing some people, if the cold snap continues," he said.

Gayken says the extreme cold could catch people off guard after unseasonably warm weather.

"In these extreme temperatures, especially with windchills below 20 or 30 degrees, frostbite can set in in a matter of minutes," he said.

The majority of frostbite cases have a common denominator -- alcohol and drugs.

"Eighty to 90 percent of the patients that we take care of with frostbite have to do with some sort of chemical issue," Gayken said.

That means the combination of frigid cold, tailgating, and prolonged exposure at the Vikings playoff game at TCF Bank Stadium Sunday could be dangerous.

"It's very important [that] people think about that, and sort of dress extra warm," Gayken said.

Layers, gloves, hats and hand warmers are key. Use common sense to enjoy what mother nature has to offer, even if its on the chillier side.

In the record cold winter of 2013, HCMC saw over 200 cases of frostbite -- triple the average.

Dr. Gayken says when you're choosing layers, it's best to pick wool near your skin, as it will stay drier than cotton.

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