The Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area has been facing a colder winter than we’ve seen in the past few years already; we saw snow in early December and it has continued into early January as well. For most of this, all this signals is that it’s time to pull out the winter coats from under our beds, swap out our tires for winter ones, and shovel some snow out of the driveway. Those who are struggling with being homeless, however, face much more serious and potentially life-threatening dangers during the colder months.
Frostbite is typically winter’s biggest hazard in regards to homeless people. It commonly occurs in the hands or feet and can range in severity, bad enough frostbite can lead to amputations being made. It can also cause difficulties in terms of getting around or being able to perform day-to-day activities.
There are a whole host of illnesses associated with cold weather like we’ve been experiencing. Cold weather can cause your immune system to weaken and even makes your blood thicker. This increases risk of a lot of health issues, ranging from the common cold to heart problems.
Prolonged exposure to hypothermia can result in people actually dying—and it isn’t uncommon, either. According to The Washington Post, we saw over 800 deaths from hypothermia in 2015. Homeless people are, naturally, more prone to suffering from hypothermia because of their prolonged exposure to outside cold temperatures.
It should come as no shock that the reduced daylight and general dreariness winter can sometimes bring along with it can have a big impact on our mental health. There’s plenty of documentation out there on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a form of depression that can strike all kinds of people during these winter months in particular. Even then, science tells us that cold temperatures can cause some enzymes in the brain to be less effective which makes us slower and less able to spring into action. Mental health is already a concern for many homeless people and in the winter, it is only worse.
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