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Record number of frostbite cases filling regional hospitals

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The dangerous sub-zero temperatures prompted schools to close and have put numerous construction projects on hold. The Business Journal notes that concerns about frostbite have called off work at the Saint Paul Saints ballpark, the St. Croix River bridge project and the Lafayette Bridge.

But the preemptive efforts have not spared everyone. Across the region, hospitals and medical centers are scrambling to treat those who are suffering after staying out in the bitter cold for too long.

The Pioneer Press reported a record-breaking number of frostbite cases coming into Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where all eight intensive care unit beds were filled with people suffering from frostbite-related conditions. KSTP reported that a total of 14 people were treated for frostbite at Regions.

FOX 9 reported that the Hennepin County Medical Center has treated a record 20 cases of frostbite so far this year. The station added that in December, HCMC recorded more cases than usually seen in an entire year.

The St Cloud Times reported that St. Cloud Hospital treated two cases of frostbite over the weekend.

The Fargo Forum said that two firefighters who battled a blaze that destroyed the Dakota Dry Bean elevator in Devil's Lake, N.D. are being treated for frostbite. Sixty firefighters battled the fire in temperatures that dropped to 23 below zero, calculated at 56 below with the wind chill.

The Pioneer Press story explained that frostbite occurs when the flesh freezes and cuts off the blood supply. When the flesh warms, arteries can become blocked, continuing to restrict blood flow. Flesh can turn black and fall off. Amputation may be required to prevent infection.

People who think they may be suffering from frostbite should submerge the affected tissue in warm water that is about 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Regions physician Dr. George Edmonson. If the flesh cannot be re-warmed or if it is discolored, they should seek immediate medical treatment.

To avoid frostbite, people are advised to continue to bundle up and avoid prolonged exposure to the extreme cold, which can happen even for the cautious. "Someone goes out to get the mail and they (may) get locked out," Edmonson said. "The door slams shut behind them and they can't get back in."

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