Cold a factor in two Maryland deaths

It's only October, and already state health officials are reporting two deaths in Maryland where cold weather was found to be a factor. It's fair warning that we need to be paying attention to folks in our community who may be especially vulnerable to the cold - especially our elderly neighbors and relatives, and those coping with chronic illnesses.

Last year cold weather was found to be a contributing factor in 38 deaths in Maryland. I wrote about an elderly Wiltondale woman who, despite regular contacts with concerned neighbors, was found dead in the basement of her heatless home.

Elderly people living alone, and others weakened by heart disease or dementia or alcoholism, are particularly at risk. Financial problems and efforts to keep heating bills to a minimum can also leave our homes so cold that our bodies cannot compensate. Infants and children who spend long periods outdoors can also be at risk, said John Hammond, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"If you have elderly or home-bound neighbors or loved ones, please check with them on a regular basis to make sure they're okay, or if there is anything you can do for them," he said.

In fairness, only one of Maryland's first two cold-related deaths this year falls into those categories. But the DHMH reports any death as cold-related if hypothermia (low body temperature) is included on the death certificate.

The first case involved a 54-year-old Prince George's County man who was involved in a single-vehicle collision on Sept. 20. The vehicle ran off the road and he was not found until a day later. Temperatures that night dipped to 49 degrees at BWI. It was the coldest night of the month. The man died Oct. 18, and the contributing factors included pneumonia, multiple injuries and hypothermia, according to the DHMH.

The second case is more typical. It involved an 84-year-old Anne Arundel County man. He was found outside his home on Oct. 19 in temperatures below 45 degrees, according to health officials. The low at BWI on that date was 36 degrees, the coldest morning of the year up to that date. The medical examiner's report said the man had a history of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, commonly a factor on cold-related deaths.

So as it gets colder, pay attention to your friends, family members and neighbors. Make sure they're safe and warm, and get them help if they're not. For more information on cold-weather health issues, click here.

For the record, it was 29 degrees this morning out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville. The mercury here at The Sun only dropped to 40 degrees. BWI Marshall saw a low of 31. That's 8 degrees below the long-term average for this date. 

Some other lows across the region:

Annapolis: 38 degrees

Washington National: 36 degrees

Martin State Airport:  34 degrees

Aberdeen: 30 degrees

Washington Dulles:  29 degrees

Frederick Airport: 28 degrees

York Airport: 26 degrees

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