Warning from doctors amid Chicago cold snap: Frostbite can happen in minutes

It is awful to be outside in this bitter cold weather, and dangerous for more reason than one.

Tuesday marked the fifth day in a row where the high temperature of the day was lower than 20 degrees, which has not happened since the Polar Vortex of 2018.

"We've definitely seen an increase in all the ice-related injuries. Some are just the falls and trauma of car accidents," said Rush University’s Dr. Carter Neugarten. "But increases in frostbite and carbon monoxide poisoning as well."

Doctors want to remind everyone that frostbite can onset in a matter of minutes.

"The biggest thing to do is just kind of early recognition and trying to avoid those injuries," Neugarten said. "People think of toes and fingers as the most commonly injured, but anything exposed whether it's nose or ears, anything less central to the body is also at risk."

Early warning signs include a prickling feeling, numbness and stinging.

"I think with something like frostbite, there's a lot that can be taken care of at home, just general rewarming putting the extremity in warm water, not hot water cause that can actually cause worse injury too," Neugarten said.


If you experience blisters or skin discoloration, he says that is when it is time to seek medical attention, even during the pandemic.

"We really want to assure you that the emergency department at the hospital is a safe place. Staff have all had the opportunity to get vaccinated and know how to take the necessary precautions," Neugarten said.

WBBM Radio reports a homeless victim of frostbite had to undergo a double leg amputation this week because of the cold.

The city does offer free rides to warming centers, call 3-1-1.