Health, Weather

Maryland reports first cold-related death of the 2021-2022 winter weather season

BALTIMORE, MD—The Maryland Department of Health on Tuesday reported the first cold-related illness death in Maryland for the 2021-2022 winter weather season. The deceased individual was an adult male in his 50s and the death occurred in Baltimore City.

“As temperatures continue to drop across the state, Marylanders are urged to take every precaution possible to prevent cold-related illnesses,” said Deputy Secretary for Public Health Dr. Jinlene Chan. “We also remind everyone to check on neighbors and relatives during very cold weather—especially the elderly. Older adults are particularly susceptible to hypothermia, which occurs when the body’s temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.”

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 2020-2021 winter weather season, MDH reported 57 cold-related deaths.

Another cold-related illness of concern is frostbite, 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 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.

Marylanders 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 OPR’s Extreme Cold website.

Photo via Pixabay

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