Frostbite, hypothermia cases way up in BC Interior last month

Frostbite, hypothermia soars

A total of 79 people were treated with frostbite or hypothermia injuries in the month of December at hospitals across the B.C. Interior.

That is a figure is much higher than the past four years.

Interior Health says just 13 cases of frostbite or hypothermia were recorded in December 2019. In 2020 that number dropped to 6, but in 2021 it grew substantially to 53 cases.

Frostbite is freezing of the skin and the tissues under the skin because of temperatures below freezing. Frostbitten skin looks pale or blue and feels cold, numb, and stiff or rubbery to the touch. An abnormally low body temperature (hypothermia) occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can make heat.

Back in November, The Kelowna Gospel Mission said it was scrambling to support roughly 150 people sleeping on the streets during an early onset of winter.

"It is a matter of life and death," said executive director Carmen Rempel.

"You have people that are scared and we have people who are miserable out in the cold and so we see people hunkering down and not leaving their tents even to come out and get basic supplies and necessities, not accessing other services because they are just hunkering down and trying their best to keep warm."

British Columbia was hit with arctic air last month made for a very cold December.

The Kelowna area recorded its ninth coldest December on record. Penticton recorded its fifth coldest while Vernon had its 13th coldest.

At the end of December, the Kelowna Fire Department was called out to dozens of tent fires, with people on the streets trying to keep warm.

At Kelowna General Hospital in particular, Interior Health says there were 10 cases of hypothermia or frostbite reported in December 2022, up from just two cases in December 2019.

There have so far been no publicly announced deaths associated with cold in Kelowna this winter.

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