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July 9, 1997

Preventing Hypothermia-Related Death

Author Affiliations

The Winter Hill Health Center Somerville, Mass

JAMA. 1997;278(2):115. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550020047027

To the Editor.  —I disagree with a CDC Editorial Note in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)1 that states, "Hypothermia-related morbidity and mortality can be prevented by early recognition and prompt medical care," followed by a list of some signs of hypothermia that practitioners should recognize.In the 3 patients excerpted from the MMWR CDC Surveillance Summaries (a polysubstance abuser, an alcoholic, and an individual with dementia who wandered), practitioners learned in the signs of hypothermia could not have saved their lives. Nobody was near these patients to recognize early symptoms and signs of hypothermia as they were beginning to die. In these patient populations, prevention of hypothermia-related mortality requires that human services are in place to keep persons at risk out of the cold.This correspondence is in no way intended to accuse human services efforts in Vermont—rather, it's just a reminder that we stay focused on