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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Maryland Reports First Cold-Related Deaths This Winter; Weekly Cold Weather Health Reports Begin for Season

BALTIMORE, MD  The first Maryland deaths related to hypothermia this season have been reported, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). The deaths were an adult male (aged 18-44 years) in Frederick County, an adult male (aged 18-44 years) in Anne Arundel County, an adult male (aged 65+ years) in Wicomico County, an adult male (aged 65+ years) in Prince George's County, and an adult female (aged 65+ years) in Carroll County. The deaths occurred between mid-November and mid-December. No additional details will be released to protect the privacy of the families. There were 15 hypothermia-related deaths in Maryland during the 2013-2014 winter weather season.

“Cold-related deaths are tragic, but preventable,” says Dr. Laura Herrera Scott, DHMH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services. “Especially at risk are the elderly, the homeless population and those who use drugs or alcohol.”

From December through March, DHMH monitors temperature conditions and incidences of cold-related illnesses and deaths. To see the weekly reports, visit Here is today's report:Weekly Cold Report 12.17.14.pdf

The site also includes the State Cold Weather Emergency Plan and fact sheets on cold weather health issues, carbon monoxide, driving tips for extreme cold weather and the warning signs of a heart attack. The fact sheets are available for download in English and
eight other languages.

Some of the dangers associated with winter weather include hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning and injuries from heat sources. Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature falls below 95ºF. Frostbite is the freezing and subsequent destruction of body tissue that is likely to occur any time skin temperature gets much below 32ºF. The areas most likely to freeze are toes, fingers, ears, cheeks and the tip of the nose.

DHMH offers these tips for protecting yourself and your family in extreme cold weather:

  • Cover your head. You lose as much as 50 percent of your body heat through your head.
  • Wear several layers of lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. The air between the layers acts as insulation to keep you warmer.
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect lungs from direct cold air. Cover your ears and the lower part of your face, too.
  • Wear mittens rather than fingered gloves. The close contact of fingers helps keep your hands warm.
  • Wear warm leg coverings and heavy socks, or two pairs of lightweight socks.
  • Wear waterproof boots or sturdy shoes to keep your feet warm and dry.
  • Maryland residents in need of housing or energy assistance to keep warm this winter should call 2-1-1 to see if there are resources available to help.
  • Be alert to other common winter hazards, such as carbon monoxide (CO) and injuries from heat sources. CO is produced by small gasoline engines, stoves, generators, lanterns and gas ranges, or by burning charcoal and wood. This colorless, odorless gas can cause severe illness and death. Heating sources can also cause fires, electrical injuries and burns if not properly installed, operated and maintained.
  • Review your family emergency communications plan and emergency supply kits for homes and vehicles. Each family member should know what to do and how to contact others should an emergency arise. The home emergency supply kit should include unexpired food items, medical supplies and batteries. Vehicles should contain items such as heavy blankets, water, nonperishable food, a flashlight and a snow shovel.
More information on emergency preparedness is available at

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