Health, Weather

Maryland Department of Health reports first cold weather-related death of the 2020-2021 winter weather season

BALTIMORE, MD—The Maryland Department of Health on Wednesday reported the first cold-related illness death in Maryland for the 2020-2021 winter weather season. The deceased individual is an adult female in the 60-70 age range. The death occurred in Baltimore City.

“As temperatures continue to drop, Marylanders are urged to stay vigilant and to take precautions to limit their exposure to cold,” said MDH Acting Secretary Dennis R. Schrader. “Wear multiple layers if you go outside; if you need access to a shelter or warming center in your area, please contact your local health department.”

From November through March, MDH’s Office of Preparedness and Response (OPR) monitors temperature, weather conditions and incidence of cold-related illnesses and deaths in the state. During the 2019-2020 winter weather season, MDH reported 50 cold-related deaths.

Cold-related illness includes conditions like hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Frostbite is the freezing and subsequent destruction of body tissue that may occur when skin temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Body parts that are most likely to freeze include toes, fingers, ears, cheeks and the tip of the nose.

To prevent the onset of cold-related illness, individuals should curb their exposure to cold weather, both by limiting time outside and by wearing several layers of lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Insulate toes, fingers, ears, cheeks and the tip of the nose, as they are especially vulnerable to frostbite. Marylanders are reminded to take extra precautions when congregating indoors with people outside of your immediate household—avoid large gatherings, wear a mask, watch your distance and wash your hands to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

Marylanders in need of warming centers are encouraged to reach out to their local health department or to call 2-1-1 and provide their county location and ZIP code to get information about warming center locations, hours of operation and available accommodations.

Citizens should also use caution while using various heat sources to stay warm. Some heating sources can cause fires, electrical injuries, burns or carbon monoxide poisoning if not installed, operated and maintained properly. Check heat sources to ensure they are safe prior to use, install carbon monoxide detectors and never use an oven as a heat source for the home.

More resources to help stay safe in cold weather — including cold-related illness surveillance reports, information about how to prevent cold-related illnesses, how to safely heat your home and how to drive safely in winter weather — are available via the OPR’s Extreme Cold website:

https://preparedness.health.maryland.gov/Pages/resources_cold.aspx

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