Blisters & burns: Omaha emergency rooms see uptick of cold-weather-related injuries

‘When we have a cold injury, our skin kind of becomes like tissue paper’
Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 6:19 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Over the past three days, emergency rooms in the Omaha-metro have been hearing one icy tale after another.

“Somebody got locked out of their house. They had to walk five miles; they didn’t know where to go. They came here, and they were frigid,” says Dr. Corbi Redli, CHI Health Immanuel.

Most of the patients coming through the doors at CHI Immanuel were able to go home with minor blisters from the cold.

“It’s the furthest from your heart, kind of, is the first thing the clamps down when you get cold: Fingertips are common... I had a patient where just their sock line, there was a big blister around their sock line,” Dr. Redli said.

Others, though, were not so lucky.

Nine people from across the state are being treated at the burn unit at CHI St. Elizabeth in Lincoln. The staff there has specialized training and deals with the most severe cases of frostbite.

“We have to try and protect the tissue. When we have a cold injury, our skin kind of becomes like tissue paper so we really have to try and protect it, it’s really fragile,” says Eric Jensen, burn center nurse.

Patients with severe enough injuries to be at the burn unit may not heal for months. It then becomes a waiting game for both the patients and the team taking care of them.

“Unfortunately for us… frostbite injuries take a long time to heal. So, it’s a lot of waiting and addressing changes until that tissue is well enough to either heal or we determine it’s going to require surgical intervention,” says Jensen.

CHI officials said that since last week, they have seen 50 patients with cold-related injuries within the hospital system here in the Omaha-metro.

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