Winter's First Hypothermia Death; MD Officials Urge Caution

State officials released tips for avoiding cold-related illnesses, following a hypothermia-related death in Frederick County earlier this month.

State health officials on Thursday confirmed Maryland's first hypothermia-related death of the winter, and took the opportunity to remind residents how to protect themselves.

State officials said the death of a Frederick County man aged 65 or older was confirmed sometime between Dec. 18 and 24. The release said no further information on the man would be released for privacy reasons.

By this time in 2011, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in the Thursday release from state officials, Maryland had recorded one hypothermia-related death, and 15 for all of last winter.

Though hypothermia is commonly associated with cold weather, it actually occurs when the body's temperature drops below 95 degrees. Frostbite occurs when body tissue freezes. State officials say extremities, as well as cheeks, ears and the tip of the nose, are most vulnerable. Anyone with circulation issues, as well as the elderly and very young, are most at risk for frostbite, according to state officials.

Here are tips for avoiding hypothermia and frostbite, via a state press release sent Thursday. For more, state officials directed readers to a page on the Department of Health and Mental Hygeine's website.

  • Cover your head. You lose as much as 50 percent of your body heat through your head.
  • Wear several layers of lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. The air between the layers acts as insulation to keep you warmer.
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect lungs from direct cold air, and also cover your ears and the lower part of your face.
  • Wear mittens, not gloves. The close contact of fingers helps to keep your hands warm.
  • Wear warm leg coverings and heavy socks, or two pairs of lightweight socks.
  • Wear waterproof boots or sturdy shoes to keep your feet warm and dry

For statewide news from Patch, follow Maryland Patch on Facebook.

The original version of this article misstated the total hypothermia-related deaths for the 2011-2012 winter season. Patch regrets the error.

Al Day December 28, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Clever of them to move the discussion to how to avoid hypothermia rather than offer ways to stay warm. There should be public buildings open to all who need them where citizens can stay either warm or cool as the season dictates, when needed. With all the energy available in this country (coal, oil, natural gas, etc) we do not need to neglect our seniors in this way. Schools sit empty all night, weekends, holidays and can be used for meeting this need. No excuses are valid.
Zoe Cat December 28, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Churches are used one morning a week and then sit empty. In Massachusetts some churches open their doors and provide shelter for the homeless..
PerryHallParent December 28, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I strongly disagree with this statement. My church is used every morning for mass, Wednesday evenings for service, Saturdays for meetings with clergy, Saturdays for weddings, Saturday evenings for masses, Sunday for masses and every day they are used for funeral services as well. Where are you getting this "one morning a week then sit empty". What a ridiculous comment. Many churches in the area host hot meal events for the homeless as well as clothing giveaways and other things.
FIFA December 28, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Interesting comment Zoe, I would bet that if we had a massive storm of the kind that New Jersey and New York witnessed with Hurricane Sandy wiping out communities in mass, and churches somehow remained standing, those churches would take in those homeless and put off a lot of their regular activities. But the interesting point you make is our "regular" homeless are different. Not to pick on any church or religion in particular, but I know of a local church that built a pretty nice banquet hall to hold wedding receptions and other events in it for a fee. Which begs the question, is it the church's obligation to help the homeless when we have other methods (although failing) to do so?
PerryHallParent December 28, 2012 at 07:26 PM
FIFA, the one thing that people fail to mention when talking about churches (not referencing your comment, just speaking in general) is that many churches that do feed, clothe and help the homeless or poor do not require that they be members, attend service or even subscribe to any belief at all. I think when you hit upon the term "obligation" is where people's opinions may differ. I personally think the community at large's obligation is to help others. I think of say Mission BBQ, that helps soldiers or local restaurants that donate a portion of their evening's proceeds for school fundraisers etc as examples of how the community can come together to support one another. I've seen businesses donate portions of their proceeds to help a family who is struggling with funeral or medical costs. I don't understand why the community at large doesn't do more through government programs and incentives. We treat the homeless as a social pariah that we don't wish to acknowledge or touch. Before you ask what I've done, I have done a lot of work helping the homeless in my past in different capacities, but I could do more. However, I think a lot of us could.
Cheryl Parks-Weidley December 28, 2012 at 07:34 PM
It's kind of those churches to do so but, not every church can or should run that risk. There are myriad problems from vandalism to lawsuits when a building that is not legally designated as a shelter is used as such.
Joe Thomas December 28, 2012 at 11:34 PM
So they issue a press release but don't give a single detail about where he died. Outside? A homeless man? A drunk who passed out? Someone in an unheated house? Privacy reasons? Give me a break.
Tyler Waldman December 28, 2012 at 11:59 PM
That's all we were told. Here's the passage on that from the release, exactly as we received it yesterday: "The death, which was confirmed between Dec. 18 and Dec. 24, was an adult (aged 65 years or older) male in Frederick County. No additional details will be released to protect the privacy of his family."
Zoe Cat December 29, 2012 at 12:49 AM
"is it the church's obligation to help the homeless" HMMM Luke 3:11 " He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise." I guess we have to decide if we have more than one coat.
Joe Thomas December 29, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Tyler Waldman so why didn't you dig a little deeper? The police? The hospitals? The fire department? You don't just take a press release and cut and paste it. Sheeeshh.
Bart December 29, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Wow, Tyler, I guess your honeymoon's over - welcome back. More to the point about the homeless death: this is another cost of the poor availability of mental health care in this country. Most homeless people are mentally ill, and for many of them, no amount of shelter beds will bring them in out of the cold.
Joe Thomas December 30, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Do you live under a rock? Who else dies from hypothermia besides the homeless and mentally ill?
franking December 30, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Elderly people who have had their power shut off.
Ed December 30, 2012 at 04:27 AM
Well, let's see, there was a hypothermia death in Garret County back in October (the snowfall they got while the rest of us were dealing with Hurricane Sandy) which was technically BEFORE winter. A man died of hypothermia while trying to clear snow off his driveway. I think he was elderly but there was no indication he was mentally ill and surely wasn't homeless. Would YOU like to crawl back under YOUR rock now?
Ed December 30, 2012 at 04:40 AM
Well, let's see. It happened in Frederick. He's based in Eastern Baltimore County. Seeing as Patch doesn't even have an edition in Frederick County, I think that is way more effort than a local editor 50 miles away should be expected to invest in the story. Oh, yeah, and this is a FREE site. If you are that interested, why don't you surf over to the Frederick News-Post site and see if they have provided any more details. If they didn't, then complain to them since it happened in THEIR county.
Ed December 30, 2012 at 04:52 AM
It's because several years ago, DHMH (the agency that includes the medical examiner's office) was sued by the family of someone that died because of the information that was released by the office. The plaintiffs won. That means our tax dollars were used to defend the suit AND pay the verdict. So now, they are quite vague when talking about the circumstances of a death. I think the policy stinks, but as a taxpayer, I appreciate that they don't want to lose any more lawsuits.
mommaof sy December 30, 2012 at 09:54 AM
He was a vulnerable adult (elderly). It doesn't matter what the circumstances are in his death. He passed away probably alone, without heat and without anyone to care for him. Shame on those of you who want to know what happened (it's really none of your business), blame it on mental illness or homelessness. Have some compassion and look out for our fellow beings.


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