Warming kits put together for homeless as hospitals warn of frostbite

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Freezing temperature Tuesday night are not only creating problems for drivers, but for people outside.

Doctors at Eskenazi Health Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center said during last winter, they saw the most patients for frostbite in February. In fact, 40% of patients in the burn unit, were those who were victims of frostbite, during that time.

"We just gear up beginning generally in December all the way through February to get the word out about frostbite prevention," said Kari Gabehart, Nursing Director for  Eskenazi Health Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center.

She warned frostbite is not something to take lightly.

"Frostbite can be very damaging, sometimes resulting in amputations," Gabehart added.

Children and the elderly are the most at risk for frostbite. Although, the burn center generally sees patients who are homeless. That's why volunteers with IU Health, Horizon House, and the Indy Public Safety Foundation put together warming kits to deliver to those most in need.

"They’re a matter of life and death for some people. They help save toes and fingers. They’re very important for our homeless population to have," said Joyce Hertko, Director of Community Outreach and Engagement at IU Health.

The warming kits include a blanket specially made to keep people warm and dry, gloves, hats, hand warmers, and even an inspirational message.

"When we get cold weather, like we have today with our first snow of the year, as we know our homeless neighbors here in Indianapolis don’t have shelter to protect them for that," said Dane Nutty, Executive Director of the Indy Public Safety Foundation.

Anyone can be a victim of frostbite. It can take only minutes for your body to feel the effects.

"Depending on the wind chill, depending on the temperature and the wind speed, that’s all going to do dictate how quickly frostbite can happen," Gabehart said.

Frostbite generally happens on the feet, hands, toes, fingers, nose, and ears.

Some signs to look out for:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Hard and pale skin
  • Loss of feeling

For more on the efforts to help out the city's homeless neighbors, click here.