With the wind chill dipping well into negative digits and snow that continues to fall and drift, hospitals are seeing an influx of patients with weather-related injuries.
"The Dyer and Hammond campuses of Franciscan St. Margaret Health are seeing multiple, minor frostbite cases," said Dr. Anthony Wilko, medical director of the department of emergency medicine for the hospitals.
At Franciscan St. Anthony Health hospital in Michigan City and Chesterton Health and Emergency Center, about a dozen people had weather-related respiratory complaints between 10 p.m. Sunday and 4 p.m. Monday.
There were four injuries related to shoveling, including chest, neck and back pains. The departments also received three cases of weather-related falls and two car crashes, said Travis Thatcher-Curtis, emergency department manager at the facilities.
Rosemary Verbich, nurse manager of the emergency department at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago, thinks people are staying inside.
“I think people are becoming more aware of the health risks involved with this frigid weather and are staying indoors as advised,” she said.
The man tasked with overseeing the health of Indiana residents is advising people to stay indoors during extreme cold temperatures, if possible.
“These extremely cold temperatures, paired with ice and snow, can be treacherous,” state Health Commissioner Dr. William VanNess said. “I encourage everyone to stay indoors as much as possible through (this) week. When you do go outside, bundle up and wear a water-resistant coat and snow boots.”
Hypothermia and frostbite are the most common cold-related problems, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
Hypothermia occurs when a person's body temperature drops too low. It happens when a person's body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced, according to the department.
Frostbite, which most affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes, causes a loss of feeling and color in the affected areas, according to the department.