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Cold-related health effects

Cold-Related Fatalities in the CARA Region 1998-2002
Source: NOAA's National Hazard Statistics
  1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
New Jersey          
New York     3    
Pennsylvania     2   1
Rhode Island          
Virginia     1    
Washington, D.C.         2
Total 0 0 6 0 3

There are direct adverse health effects of cold weather, such as hypothermia, and indirect effects, such as increased respiratory infections, heart attacks while shoveling snow, and winter traffic accidents. This table only tallies direct effects.

Hypothermia deaths are often complicated by drug and alcohol abuse. Hypothermia can occur at temperatures above freezing, so is not restricted to the colder states.

Episodes of low temperature and/or high snowfall are often followed by an increased number of deaths from heart attacks, stroke, and respiratory disease (indirect effects); however, the association of mortality with winter weather is considered weak.


Hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature falls lower than 95 °F (35 °C). When the core body temperature falls below 85-90 °F (30-32 °C) hypothermia can be life-threatening. There are three types of hypothermia, acute, subacute and chronic.

Acute hypothermia is caused by a rapid loss of body heat, usually from immersion in cold water. This can occur even in warm climates.

Subacute hypothermia often occurs from exposure to cool weather (below 50 °F (10 °C)) outdoors, in combination with wind chill, wet or inadequate clothing, fatigue, and/or inadequate nutrition.

Chronic hypothermia generally occurs from exposure to temperatures below 60 °F (16 °C) indoors over a prolonged period. People with an impaired perception of cold, decreased mobility or inadequate nutrition, clothing, or heating systems are at increased risk. This group typically includes the poor, the elderly, and drug or alcohol abusers. Infants less than one year old are also at risk because they lose body heat more easily than adults and can't maintain their body heat by shivering.

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