Many people spend time outdoors in the winter working, traveling, and enjoying winter sports. Dressing appropriately for the weather and being prepared can make these activities much more enjoyable.
- Wear appropriate outdoor clothing: layers of light, warm clothing, mittens, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots.
- Sprinkle cat litter or sand on icy patches to prevent falls.
- Learn safety precautions to follow when outdoors.
- Be aware of the wind chill factor.
- Work slowly when doing outside chores such as shoveling snow.
- Take a buddy and an emergency kit when you are participating in outdoor recreation.
- Have your cell phone with you and make sure it’s fully charged.
Hypothermia is one hazard that can occur during the winter months. When exposed to cold temperatures, the body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.
Hypothermia occurs mostly during very cold temperatures, but can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40o F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat or submersion in cold water. Hypothermia can also occur inside a building. The thermostat should be set no lower than 65-70 degrees if the occupants are 75 years or older.
Signs of Hypothermia:
- Confusion or memory loss
- Slowed, slurred speech or shallow breathing
- Weak pulse or low blood pressure
- A change in behavior during cold weather or a change in the way a person normally looks
- A lot of shivering or no shivering; stiffness in the arms or legs
- Poor control over body movements or slow reactions
- Chilly rooms or other signs that a person has been in a cold place
Not only do we look for ways to stay warm outdoors, but indoors as well. We all look for ways to save on heating costs during these tough economic times, including alternative heating sources such as portable heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves. Fire deaths and carbon monoxide poisoning are increased risks from using alternate heating sources. Home heating equipment is among the top causes of fires and carbon dioxide poisoning. Follow these safety tips to prevent injury from carbon monoxide poisoning and fire:
- Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarms throughout the home, and check or replace the batteries twice a year. A good time to do this is when you change the time on the clocks every spring and fall. If the CO detector or smoke alarm sounds, leave the building immediately and call 911.
- Have a fire safety escape plan. Keep escape routes clear and free of clutter and trip hazards. Keep a robe, slippers, eye glasses and keys close to the bed.
- Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil or coal-burning appliance serviced by a qualified technician every year.
- Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning, or are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseous.
- Do not heat your house by using a gas oven.
- Do not run or warm a vehicle inside a garage that is attached to the home, even if the garage door is open.
If using a fireplace or wood stove:
- Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
- Keep the hearth area clear of debris, decorations and flammable material.
- Do not burn anything in a stove or fireplace that is not vented.
- Do not leave fires burning unattended.
If using a portable heater:
- Keep the heater at least one foot away from people, pets and objects.
- Do not leave portable heaters on when no one is home.
- Turn the heater down or off when you are sleeping.
- Unplug electrical appliances/heaters when not in use.
- Never hang damp clothes near a heater to dry them.
Keep warm and safe this winter! Now get out there and enjoy the season!