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Precautions to Avoid Cold Weather-Related Illness and Injury

With the extreme cold weather around us, the Maryland Department of Health has issued the following advisory:

Extreme cold weather can lead to serious health issues. Exposure to cold can lead to low body temperature, hypothermia, frostbite and even death. Shoveling snow or exercising in the cold can lead to heart attacks and stroke.

Hypothermia occurs when body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Nearly 600 Americans die each year from hypothermia. Symptoms of hypothermia include:

· Uncontrollable shivering
· Cold, pale skin
· Numbness
· Fatigue
· Poor circulation
· Disorientation
· Slurred speech
· Bluish or puffy skin

Frostbite refers to freezing and subsequent destruction of body tissue. This happens when skin temperatures get below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, most likely affecting toes, fingers, ears, cheeks and the tip of the nose. Symptoms of frostbite include:

· Gradual numbness
· Hardness and paleness of the affected area during exposure
· Pain and tingling or burning in affected area following warming
· Possible change of skin color to purple

The Department encourages residents to use the following tips to help cope with extreme cold conditions if they must go outside:

· Wear a base layer
· Wear an insulating layer
· Wear a windproof and water-resistant outer layer
· Wear tights or long underwear
· Wear mittens or gloves
· Wear socks and shoes
· Protect your eyes, lips, skin, neck, and face


Residents should be aware of the risks cold weather poses inside homesand buildings:

· Keep fireplaces and wood-burning stoves clean
· Provide plenty of room around all heaters
· Never leave space heaters on while unattended
· Ensure smoke and carbon dioxide detectors are operating properly
· Check on older adults and neighbors and relatives with disabilities
· Store several days’ worth of non-perishable food and bottled water
· Ensure you have several days’ worth of medications available

Residents are also encouraged to prevent cold-related illness for pets:

· Bring your pets inside
· If you cannot bring your pet inside, make sure they have fresh, unfrozen water to drink and a shelter with adequate warmth
· Do not leave your animal in a car in cold weather

Residents in need of warming centers are encouraged to reach out to their local health department or 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.

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