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Extreme Weather Preparedness

Last updated: March 3, 2023

Cold Weather Tips

The Anne Arundel County Department of Health encourages residents to exercise caution during extremely cold temperatures. Whether inside or out, cold weather can be dangerous to those who are unprepared to deal with it.

frostbite and hypothermia infographic


When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. A body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and will not be able to do anything about it. Symptoms of hypothermia can vary depending on how long you have been exposed to the cold temperatures.

Early Symptoms

  • Shivering
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of coordination
  • Confusion and disorientation

Late Symptoms

  • No shivering
  • Blue skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Slowed pulse and breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

First Aid

  • Move the victim into a warm room or shelter.
  • Remove their wet clothing.
  • Warm the center of their body first-chest, neck, head, and groin-using an electric blanket, if available; or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
  • Warm beverages may help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
  • After their body temperature has increased, keep the victim dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.
  • If victim has no pulse, call 911 and begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).


Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in the affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage body tissues, and severe cases can lead to amputation. In extremely cold temperatures, the risk of frostbite is increased in individuals with reduced blood circulation and among those who are not dressed properly.

Symptoms of frostbite include:

  • Reduced blood flow to hands and feet (fingers or toes can freeze)
  • Numbness
  • Tingling or stinging
  • Aching
  • Bluish or pale, waxy skin

First Aid

  • Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes-this increases the damage.
  • Immerse the affected area in warm-not hot-water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).
  • Warm the affected area using body heat; for example, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.
  • Do not rub or massage the frostbitten area; doing so may cause more damage.
  • Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.

Children, the elderly and people with poor circulatory systems are at particular risk for hypothermia or frostbite. The Department of Health offers the following tips to help residents cope with winter conditions when outside:

  • Dress for the cold weather by wearing coats, hats (as much as 50% of body heat is lost through the head), scarves or knit masks to cover the face and mouth, and gloves or mittens.  Wear waterproof boots, shoes and gloves.
  • Dress in layers of loose-fitting clothes, including extra socks.  Wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers hold in more body heat than cotton. Avoid cotton clothing for winter activities.
  • Prepare for the unexpected. Most problems with hypothermia occur because of an unexpected change in the weather or temperature.
  • Avoid getting wet when the temperature dips.
  • Drink plenty of water. Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol.
Residents should also be aware of the risks cold weather poses when inside the house. The Department offers the following tips to help residents remain safe in their homes during cold conditions:

  • Store several days worth of non-perishable food and bottled water.
  • Keep several days worth of medications.
  • Keep fireplaces and wood-burning stoves clean.
  • Never leave space heaters on and unattended.
  • Keep grills, camp stoves, and generators out of the house, basement and garage.
  • Ensure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are operating properly.
  • Check on elderly or disabled neighbors and relatives.
  • Bring pets inside. If it is too cold for you, it is too cold for them. See Cold Weather Pet Safety.
  • For Shelter Information: Office of Emergency Management – 410-222-0600

Freezing and Bursting Pipes:

How pipes freeze and burst, and what to do to prevent damage.

Here is more information about dealing with winter weather conditions outdoors, at home or in a vehicle:

Hot Weather Tips

When the temperature rises and more people are enjoying outdoor summer activities, it is important to avoid dehydration and excessive exposure to the sun. The humidity also makes it harder to handle the hot temperatures. The Department of Health encourages all residents to be cautious of heat-related illnesses.

The elderly, young children, those who are overweight and those who have chronic health conditions (like heart disease or diabetes) are especially at risk of dehydration and overheating. This can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. The following suggestions can help you avoid heat-related illnesses:

  • Drink fluids. Water is the best fluid to drink.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. They can make dehydration worse.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing to protect against the sun’s rays.
  • Wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed light-colored hat.
  • Remember to use sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher to protect your skin.
  • Never leave children or pets in a car unattended — even with the windows open!
  • Instead of large meals, eat smaller meals more frequently.
  • Limit strenuous activities outdoors. Slow down and take frequent breaks.
  • Limit outdoor activities from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on days when poor air quality is announced. Air Quality Forecast
  • Check frequently on the elderly and those in poor health. They may not be able to handle heat stress as well.

The first sign of heat illness is often heat cramps. ​Some of the signs of heat exhaustion​ are heavy sweating​, ​cold pale clammy skin, headache, nausea​,​ vomiting, muscle or abdominal cramping, fast weak pulse, fainting, weakness, thirst or ​an ​altered ability to think​. If someone has signs of heat exhaustion, immediately take ​the person​ to a cool place and provide water or a sports drink. If symptoms persist, seek medical attention by calling 911 ​at once.​

Heat stroke, the most serious heat-related illness, occurs when the body temperature increases to 104 F or higher and requires immediate medical treatment. Symptoms include hot dry and reddened skin (no longer able to sweat), nausea and vomiting, rapid irregular pulse, seizures, confusion and disorientation​,​ and delirium.​ Call 911 immediately.​

Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Air conditioning is the strongest protective factor against heat-related illness. Exposure to air conditioning for even a few hours a day will reduce the risk for heat-related illness. Consider visiting a shopping mall or public library for a few hours.

Whether you are working outdoors, attending social functions or relaxing by the water, it is important to take the proper precautions in warm weather.

For more information, go to Sun Safety and Sun and Water Safety.

Hydration Station (PDF)
Summer Food Safety
Extreme Heat in Maryland and Maryland Heat Reports (MDH)
Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide (CDC)

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