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Incoming severe cold causes health concerns, especially for those experiencing homelessness

"We have tremendous concern that people are going to be dying this weekend," advocate Terri McGuire of Hustlin4theUnhoused said.

MAINE, USA — Health leaders are urging caution ahead of this weekend's anticipated frigid temperatures. 

Maine Medical Center Chief of Emergency Medicine Dr. Michael Baumann said with temperatures expected to reach well below zero, combined with high winds, it can create treacherous conditions outdoors.

"Any part that's exposed is going to be at risk when it gets this cold and this windy," Baumann said. "You can see frostbite in a couple of minutes. The skin, especially sensitive parts of the skin, the cheek, the face, tip of the nose, they really don't have a good blood supply, which what keeps our skin warm, so they freeze relatively quickly." 

The cold temperatures and wind chill are prompting many weekend events across the state to be postponed. There's a growing concern, however, for those without a place to call home.

Advocates for those experiencing homeless, like Terri McGuire of the coalition Hustlin4theUnhoused, fear the worst for those unable to access shelter when the temperatures drop.

"We're already seeing some pretty severe cases of frostbite. Sometimes their fingers and toes will turn colors. People are making makeshift bandages," McGuire said. 

McGuire and a team of outreach workers spent the day Wednesday delivering warm supplies to those experiencing homelessness. 

"We have tremendous concern that people are going to be dying this weekend," McGuire said. 

Frostbite is not the only concern for those unable to access shelter and warmth during the cold. Those outside for extended periods of time could succumb to hypothermia.

"If your total body temperature gets too low, your heartbeat's slower and can eventually stop. Your entire body starts to coagulate, and almost freeze like a slushy. Your blood doesn't pump real well, your body parts including your brains don't get good oxygen, you lost consciousness, and you can freeze to death," Baumann said. 

Baumann said it's best to avoid having any exposed skin and limit time outdoors to stay warm to avoid any serious cold-related injuries and illnesses. 

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