Cold Weather Crisis

The Paradox of Cold-Related Deaths: Delving into the Silent Menace

If the predominance of cold- over heat-related deaths seems counterintuitive, it’s helpful to consider how cold temperatures affect the human body. The impact of cold weather on mortality rates during winter months is well established. In recent years, the United States has experienced a higher death rate of 8 to 12 percent more during winter compared to non-winter months. This increase can be attributed, in part, to the proliferation of respiratory diseases in colder weather. Additionally, pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular conditions are aggravated by the drop in temperatures.[1] Our bodies, in general, tend to react negatively to the cold, leading to decreased blood circulation and an increased risk of heart attacks.[2]

Vulnerable Populations and Occupations

Populations that are already vulnerable suffer the worst impact, including infants, the elderly, and the infirm. Moreover, individuals who spend a significant amount of time outdoors are also susceptible to cold-related maladies or death. This includes agricultural workers, construction workers, electrical and pipeline utility workers, and those without permanent homes.[3] Notably, people finding themselves in cold water are especially at risk, as the body loses heat 25 times faster in water than in the air.[4]

The Hidden Peril: Unveiling the Risks of Moderately Cold Weather

Cold-related deaths often occur in weather that may not be considered extreme. Surprisingly, even 50-degree temperatures (F) can push vulnerable individuals into a life-threatening crisis. To understand this, we must consider a human’s normal core temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). When the core temperature drops just a few degrees, reaching 95 F (35 C), hypothermia can result. This critical threshold highlights the broad geographical distribution of cold-related deaths, which can happen anywhere when the weather becomes even moderately cold. In contrast, heat-related deaths primarily occur during severe heat waves, which are infrequent.[5] Our bodies are seemingly designed to cope reasonably well with hot weather, but not with cold.

To address the paradox of cold-related deaths, proactive measures must be taken. Raising awareness about the dangers of cold weather and its impact on vulnerable populations is crucial. Efforts should focus on improving access to warm shelters, especially for homeless individuals and those without proper heating in their homes. Enhancing healthcare services during winter months, particularly for individuals with pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, is vital. Moreover, continued research and innovation are needed to better understand and mitigate the risks associated with cold-related fatalities.

By shining a light on the hidden danger of cold-related deaths, we can work towards a safer and more resilient society, ensuring the well-being of all, particularly during the unforgiving winter months. Let us come together and make a difference this winter by providing warm clothing and blankets to those in need. Your support can bring comfort, protection, and hope to families facing extreme cold. Through your generosity, GFA missionaries can continue their vital work, reaching the unreached and transforming lives in the midst of challenging circumstances. Join us today in making a lasting impact and spreading warmth and love to those who need it most.

Learn more about the cold weather crisis

[1] “Climate Change Indicators: Cold-Related Deaths.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed July 15, 2022.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Rettner, Rachael. “How Does a Person Freeze to Death?” Live Science. January 30, 2019.
[5] “Climate Change Indicators: Heat-Related Deaths.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed July 15, 2022.