EMS warns cold can affect your brain; you might not be aware you are injured

EMS warns cold can affect your brain; you might not be aware you are injured

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Just four days into 2018 and University Hospital had already seen seven emergency cases of hypothermia or frostbite.

Three patients were admitted for their injuries, and one was serious enough to go to intensive care.

On Thursday, 11 straight days of sub-freezing cold have taken their toll. Children, the elderly and people with medical conditions like diabetes are particularly at risk and should be aware of the warning signs.

>> Get the latest WAVE 3 Storm Tracking Team forecast

"Color changes that don't resolve just by being back indoors for a short period of time, intense pain, definitely any blistering," UofL Emergency Medicine Dr. Steve Knight explained.

Louisville Metro EMS reported Thursday there were 15 emergency runs for hypothermia in the last week. That number is more than double than the week before.

It may be surprising to some that fewer than half the victims were homeless. Metro EMS reports five patients paramedics treated were children.

Treatment is not easy.

"Once their body temperature drops so low, rough handling and things like that can actually cause them to go into cardiac arrest," Louisville EMS Major Chris Lokits said. "You lose a lot of heat through your head a lot of times and once you get cold it takes a lot of time for the body to get re-warmed."

Lokits said it is easy to become severely injured because the cold affects cognitive abilities.

"It happens all the time and it starts to affect your brain," he said. "And so to a point you get to where you're not thinking clearly like a normal person would."

There is a Wind Chill Advisory in effect north and east of Louisville until 11 a.m. Friday. In these extreme temperatures, people should cover all exposed skin, and wear a hat and gloves.

Copyright 2018 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.