Latvian hospitals see frostbite cases in recent days

The past few days have brought a great cold to Latvia. It can pose health risks, especially for older people, infants, and the homeless. People have come to hospitals with frostbite, even before the New Year, Sergejs Smirnovs, head of the burns center at Riga East Clinical University Hospital (RAKUS), told Latvian Radio January 3.

There are currently two people from disadvantaged backgrounds at the burns center who were admitted Tuesday, but as the center's chief executive pointed out, both have unfortunately arrived too late and the frozen toes will have to be amputated.

Smirnovs said it was common for people to freeze their hands and feet, but during this time it is possible to freeze their faces as well.

At first the affected body parts go numb, people mistakenly think things are OK, but in reality the problem has already gone further and nerve endings have been affected due to frostbite.

On the first day, the frozen areas are white and numb, the next couple of days they become swollen and reddish, but gradually the color turns purple and blisters appear on the frozen areas.

The head of the burns center emphasized that most often people get frostbite under the influence of alcohol. Also people with different sensory disorders should be careful in this weather.

“Because Latvia has a damp environment, the cold attaches to us quickly. We sometimes hear about -45 C in continental climates, but they sometimes are less cold than we are here with our -20 C. First and foremost, assess whether there is a need to go out. If you have to go, dress properly and warmly and assess your state of health.

“If anything happens, turn to a doctor, better safe than sorry, [..] because realistically there are just three days we can do something,” the head of the burn center said.

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