The temperatures have been below normal for some time now, in Maryland and around the country, so it seems like a good time to remind everyone to stay safe and warm.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the cold air makes everyday activites challenging, if not dangerous. Young children, older adults and the chronically ill are most at risk, so make sure to check on these peolpe regularly.
Exposure to cold temperatures can cause frostbite and hypothermia, which can be life-threatening. The CDC advises seeking immediate medical attention if you suspect you have either.
Frostbite causes skin to appear red and feel painful. Without medical attention, skin will then turn white or grayish and feel firm, waxy or numb. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness.
So, stay inside if you can, or seek shelter somewhere warm. Using the oven and candles for heat has had fatal consequences in Baltimore and beyond.
Here are some more lists with CDC tips:
If the house is cold: Wear layers of warm clothes, including on your head and feet; closing off unused, exterior rooms and gathering in a single room; and seek warmth in malls, libraries and shelters.
When outside: Wear appropriate outdoor clothing, including layers of light, warm clothing, mittens rather than gloves and waterproof boots; sprinkle cat litter or sand on icy patches; be aware of the wind chill factor; work slowly when doing chores outside; take a friend and an emergency kit when you are playing outside; avoid traveling when the weather service has issued advisories and make sure someone knows your proposed route and expected arrival time; and carry a cell phone.
When the power goes out: Remember that alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating or cooking can cause carbon monoxide (CO) to build up in a home or garage can kill the people and animals. CO is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled. Alternate heating sources can include properly used generators and well-maintained fireplaces.
As precautions: Have the heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician each year; install a CO detector with a working battery; learn symptoms of CO poisoning including headaches, nausea and disorientation; seek medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning; "warm up" your car or truck outside of your garage;
attached garages can leak CO fumes into your house, even if you leave the door open
Also: Check to be sure your stove or fireplace is properly vented before using; never heat your house with a gas oven; keep grills and generators out of the house and garage; generators need to be at least 25 feet from the house; stock food that needs no cooking or refrigeration and water stored in clean containers; keep an up-to-date emergency kit with a battery-operated flashlight, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio and lamps, batteries, first-aid kit and extra medicine.
When driving in winter weather: Take into account the snow, sleet and ice on the roads, so stay off the roads if possible; keep gas tank full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines; use a wintertime formula in your windshield washer; keep a winter emergency kit in the car in case you become stranded including blankets, food and water, booster cables, flares, tire pump and a bag of sand or cat litter (for traction), compass and maps, flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries, first-aid kit and plastic bags (for sanitation).
If stranded: Stay with your car unless safety is no more than 100 yards away, but continue to move arms and legs; stay visible by putting bright cloth on the antenna, turning on the inside overhead light (when engine is running) and raising the hood when snow stops falling; run the engine and heater only 10 minutes every hour; keep a downwind window open; make sure the tailpipe is not blocked.
For more information, click here or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.
Baltimore Sun file photo/Amy Davis