2017 Cold Tips

Though Maryland has experienced a more mild winter than in years past, just because there's not snow on the ground doesn't mean you're not at risk for cold-related illness. To date, 20 cold-related deaths have been reported since the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Office of Preparedness and Response began the 2016/2017 reporting period. 

Hypothermia can occur at temperatures as high as the 40s if a person is wet or gets chilled. Marylanders are encouraged to prepare for cold weather prior to the next temperature drop. Health and Mental Hygiene offers helpful information and cold weather facts through the tip sheet found here, and on our extreme cold page. 

Here are some basic tips to keep you safe in cold weather: 

1.    Dress properly for the weather. Make sure to wear a water-resistant coat and boots, and several layers of loose-fitting clothing. Wear a hat - you can lose as much as 50 percent of your body heat through your head. Don't forget mittens or gloves, heavy socks, and a scarf!

2.    Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature falls below 95oF. Keep an eye out for symptoms, which include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, or drowsiness. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

3.    Frostbite is the actual freezing of body tissue and can occur when the skin temperature falls below 32oF. Prevent frostbite by covering your toes, fingers, ears, cheeks, and nose, which are the most likely areas to freeze. Look out for redness or pain, white or grayish-yellow skin, skin that feels firm or waxy, and numbness. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

4.    When heating your house against the cold temperatures, beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Generators, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns and gas ranges, or burning charcoal and wood can all create high carbon monoxide levels inside your home. The colorless, odorless gas can cause severe illness and death. Make sure your house has proper ventilation and keep running generators at least 25 feet from your home.

5.    Review your emergency plan with your family. Know where to go and how to contact others in case of emergency or evacuation. Have an emergency supply kit at home and in your vehicle that contains non-perishable food, water, medical supplies and batteries. Vehicle kits should also include heavy blankets and a snow shovel.

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