Five deaths from hypothermia in St. Joe County, IN - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Five deaths from hypothermia in St. Joe County, IN

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With another round of sub zero temperatures approaching, doctors are urging people to take extra precautions because the number of deaths related to hypothermia in our area is up. Five people have already died in St. Joseph County.

Randy Magdalinski is the St. Joe County coroner, and he says, "The big problem is people have to respect the cold. Between Christmas and now, we've had 5 deaths related to the cold." Magdalinski says that number is higher than last year, something no coroner wants to see. In some cases, there were other factors that came in to play. "A couple of those are true hypothermia deaths where basically people are found out in the cold with no where to go, no way to protect themselves. Really frozen," he says. "The hypothermia deaths are in combination with medical conditions as well as the cold weather. "

That's why Magdalinski says children and especially the elderly are the most at risk in these freezing temperatures.  He says, "Unfortunately, maybe a heart attack or another medical condition comes into play due to the cold weather, and they collapse, and they're found out in the cold after a period of time."

In these single digit temperatures, doctors say you can feel effects in your fingers, your nose, and your ears in as little as five minutes, if you're not bundled up.  It only takes 30 minutes to put yourself in critical condition. But compared to the coroner, South Bend Emergency rooms are seeing a different trend.

Dr. Farrell works in the Emergency room at Memorial Hospital, and says, "I guess it's fairly unusual that we haven't, and I haven't seen a lot of cases. I work a fair amount in the evening and the night shift, and you think that I would." Dr. Farrell says when the temperatures get this low, certain rules start to change around town. "I think the shelters have a certain policy that when the temperature falls to a certain level, there's what we call weather amnesty."

In years past, Dr. Farrell says he saw many cases of frost bite and hypothermia related cases in the ER. "I guess this must be a testament to the shelters and the awareness in the community," says Dr. Farrell.

People we spoke to say when venturing out into the cold, make sure you tell someone. Most of the deaths the coroner's office has encountered because of hypothermia were people living alone, or families not knowing what they were doing.

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