(RxWiki News) Written By Anyssa Garza, PharmD, BCMAS
Whether you're ready for them or not, the winter months are upon us. It's time to make sure your family knows how to stay safe and healthy this winter.
Follow these steps to keep yourself and your family safe this winter.
Cold temperatures can cause your body to lose heat at a much faster rate than it can produce heat. As a result, you may be at risk of developing hypothermia or frostbite. Some people are at a higher risk for hypothermia or frostbite. Those at higher risk are older adults who do not have proper food, clothing or heating, those who stay outdoors for long periods and do activities outdoors (hikers and hunters) and infants sleeping in cold rooms.
To stay safe, dress appropriately when you head outside. Proper dress may include the following:
- A warm hat
- A scarf or knit mask to cover your face and mouth
- Sleeves that are snug at the wrist
- Mittens (instead of gloves because mittens are warmer than gloves)
- A waterproof and windproof coat
- Waterproof boots
- Warm socks, such as socks made of wool
- Several layers of loose-fitting clothing (an inner, middle and outer layer)
- Try to avoid wearing cotton (including your underwear). This is because cotton absorbs moisture and can actually keep you cold.
- For the inner layer, aim for clothes made of lightweight wool, polyester or polypropylene.
- For the middle layer, aim for clothes made of down, microfiber insulation, polyester fleece or wool.
- For the outer layer, opt for a coat that is breathable and rainproof and windproof.
In addition, make sure to cover parts of your body that are more likely to be affected by frostbite, such as the ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, nose and toes.
The early stage of frostbite is called frostnip. It is marked by the following signs:
- Red and cold skin (the skin may start to turn white but is still soft)
- Tingling and/or stinging
Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include the following:
- Feeling cold (possibly with shivering)
- Slurred speech or mumbling
- Feeling very sleepy
- Slow, shallow breathing
If a loved one is experiencing hypothermia or frostbite, seek immediate medical attention.
Prepare Your Home
As the temperature drops, more people tend to stay indoors. As a result, it is even more important to prepare your home for the winter months.
Be sure to do the following:
- Have your heating system serviced by a professional to make sure it is clean, working properly and adequately ventilated to the outside.
- Prepare fireplaces and chimneys.
- Make sure your smoke detector is working properly. Test batteries each month and replace them twice a year.
- Make sure your carbon monoxide (CO) detector is working properly to alert you if the deadly, odorless, colorless gas is present in your home. Check that the batteries work. A good way to remember this is to change the batteries when you change your clocks in the fall and spring. To protect your family from carbon monoxide, be sure to keep camp stoves and generators out of the house, basement or garage.
- Insulate your home by installing weather strips around windows and doors. In addition, insulate pipes on the exterior walls to prevent any freezing and breakage.
To prepare for power outages and other weather-related emergencies, do the following:
- Make sure you have a safe alternate heating source and alternate fuels.
- Stock non-perishable food.
- Store water in clean containers.
- Keep an up-to-date emergency kit, including a flashlight.
- Make sure to restock medications and medical supplies.
Be Safe During Travel and Outdoor Recreation
Walking on ice is very dangerous. In fact, many weather-related injuries are due to falls on ice-covered steps, driveways and even porches. Make sure to keep your walkways and steps free of ice. Rock salt, cat litter and sand may help reduce the risk of slipping.
Also, remember that cold weather makes the heart work harder. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, be sure to take extra caution and follow your doctor’s advice about performing hard work in the cold, such as shoveling snow. Work slowly and do not overdo it with your outdoor chores.
If you will be engaging in an outdoor activity like hiking, notify your friends or family of where you will be and your expected time of return.