(The Daily Dish) Even though winter comes every year, it can still take us—and our bodies—by surprise. It’s important to plan ahead for potentially hazardous condition, for both your personal safety and your health.
Winter storms and overall colder temperatures can be dangerous. Even though winter comes every year, sometimes we still aren’t quite prepared for it when it does arrive. Colder temperatures that our bodies aren’t used to, potential power failures and losing phone and other communication services, and even things like hazardous roads that can make travel dangerous, are just a few of the things to watch out for.
Being outdoors can certainly expose you to more dangerous conditions for your health, but there are simple steps you can take to prepare yourself.
Wear appropriate clothing for the weather; Not only appropriate outer wear like a wind-resistant coat or jacket, but multiple layers of light, warm clothing when needed. Mittens, hats and scarves, of course, but also water-proof boots.
Aside from the cold itself, be mindful of the inherent dangers of icy conditions. It may seem simple, but if you’re working outdoors or have to spend a lot of time outdoors, just sprinkle sand, or even cat litter, on icy patches to reduce how slippery it is.
When it gets really cold outside, it’s certainly better to be inside than out, but even being inside is of course no guarantee of safety. It’s good to winterize your home, when and if you have the resources, including things like installing weather stripping, insulation and storm windows, to help keep the heat inside your house.
And speaking of heat, check your heating systems, to make sure they’re working properly, and have an alternative heat source and fuel available if needed. This is always a good time, too, to check the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detectors. When you’re using more fuel, there are just naturally more opportunities for something to malfunction.
One thing is to always be aware of current and forecasted weather conditions, so you have an idea of what you may expect. Don’t travel if the National Weather Service has issued advisories, but if you absolutely have to, make sure someone from your destination knows when you’re supposed to arrive.
One of the most perilous circumstances you can find yourself in when traveling during inclement weather is getting stranded. If you do get stranded, you should make your vehicle visible to rescuers – This can be as simple as bringing a brightly colored cloth with you on your trip, and attaching it the vehicle’s antenna.
Move everything you need from the trunk into the passenger area, and stay with your vehicle unless help is on the way and instructs you otherwise. The most important thing is to keep warm. Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, or anything layered you have available – even newspaper will work!
If you stay awake and stay moving, you’ll be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems. Keeping your arms and legs moving will improve your circulation and help keep you warm, too. For about 10 minutes, every hour, run the motor and heater, with one window slightly open. Be sure to check that snow or ice isn’t blocking your exhaust pipe, though, to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia, two common causes of distress from the cold weather. Hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, is a dangerous condition, and it can happen when someone is exposed to extreme cold. Shivering, exhaustion or feeling tired or confused are all warning signs. You can also experience memory loss, slurred speech, or drowsiness.
For very young children, look out for bright red, cold skin and low energy. If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. A body temperature of below 95 degree is an emergency, and you should seek medical attention immediately.
Frostbite is actually an injury caused by freezing. It can lead to a loss of feeling and color in the affected area, usually the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can cause permanent damage. Warning signs include white or grayish-yellow skin, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, and numbness.
Seek medical attention immediately if you notice frostbite.