Md. has recorded its first cold weather-related death this season.
Baltimore, Md (KM). The first day of winter is Thursday, December 21st, and residents need to be aware of how the cold weather affects their bodies..
Dr. Clifford Mitchell, Director of the Environmental Health Bureau of the Maryland Department of Health, says hypothermia is a danger during the winter. That’s when the body’s temperature drops below 98-degrees. But it can be especially dangerous when the body’s temperature falls to 95-degrees or below. “It’s starts with symptoms like confusion, light-headedness,” he says. “And then can progress to sleepiness and eventually,. potentially death.”
If you’ve been outside for a while and start feeling this way, Dr. Mitchell says get inside where it’s warm. “Usually, people will have mild symptoms to start with because it will be cold enough that they will start to get numbness or tingling in the toes and hands and feet and ears.. And if you have any of those early warning signs, that’s the time to get inside so never get to the point where you have more serious symptoms,” he says.
Last week, Maryland recorded its first hypothermia-related dearth for this winter season: a woman in her mid-60’s in Garrett County.
Another danger during the winter season is frostbite, where the extremities such as the hands and the feet get cold enough that it damages the tissue. Dr. Mitchell says it doesn’t have to extremely cold for your body to experience frostbite. “It doesn’t have to drop the temperature in your core body to drop the temperature in the hands or the toes or the ears to the point where they literally get so cold that they damage or do severe damage to the tissue there,” he says.
Symptoms include mild numbness, tingling or pain. “If you get to the point where your fingers are turning white or extremely red,. that’s a sign that you need to get inside and warm those extremities. You want to warm them gradually unless it’s an emergency,” says Dr. Mitchell.
He also says if you go out during the cold weather, cover your head, mouth, ears and the lower part of your face. In addition, where several layers of lightweight, loose-fitting clothing and waterproof boots or sturdy shoes to keep your feet warm and dry.
Dr. Mitchell also says periodically check on your elderly neighbors during the winter. “We all-to-often hear about cases where people are inside but aren’t using their heat appropriately. We just want to make those people are okay. Just make sure they’ve got appropriate heat. That there isn’t a fire hazard from using their stove or kerosene heat,” he says.
For anyone who wants more information on how to stay warm during the cold weather, the Maryland Department of Health has set up a website with information on the State’s Cold Weather Emergency Plan, and fact sheets about issues such as carbon monoxide poisoning, cold weather health, driving tips in cold weather and the warning signs of a heart attack. The web address is https://preparedness.health.maryland.gov/Extreme-Cold.apx..
By Kevin McManus