Monday, January 14, 2013

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

     Old man winter hasn’t hit hard yet, but when the wind howls at 30 mph and the thermometer dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, frostbite can occur. Depending upon how long you’ve been outside, frostbite, or frozen body tissue, can cause a loss of feeling and color in the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. Redness or pain in any skin area could be a sign that you have frostbite.

     Hypothermia, another outdoor hazard, happens when your normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees falls below 95 degrees due to being outside for too long or becoming wet and cold. Signs of hypothermia include lots of shivering, feeling very tired, confused and sleepy. Both frostbite and hypothermia can happen before you know it, and the young and elderly are especially vulnerable. With both conditions, it’s important to seek medical help right away.

Braving the elements 
     As a rule, limit your outdoor exposure, dress in layers and stay dry. Layers of lightweight, moisture-wicking materials trap air in between each layer to keep you warm. If you have children, dress them in one more layer of clothing than you would wear. Don’t forget that more than 40 percent of body heat is lost from the head, so don’t forget to cover your noggin.

     Did you know that your heart works extra hard to keep you warm when it’s cold? Add snow shoveling to the mix and you could be putting too much strain on your heart, especially if you have heart disease. Digging out is dangerous if you have problems with balance or osteoporosis too. Think of snow shoveling as weight lifting. Don’t take on more than you can handle and shovel early and often. If you must lift the snow (instead of pushing it), squat with your legs bent, feet apart and lift with your legs. Never bend at the waist.

     Whether shoveling or shopping, wear rubber-soled boots when trekking on snowy and icy surfaces. Keep your hands out of your pockets (you need your arms for balance) and take short, shuffling steps on icy areas.

     Prepare for cold weather driving by checking your vehicle’s antifreeze, tires and windshield wipers. Stock you car with a windshield scraper/brush, kitty litter, shovel, jumper cables, blanket, change of clothes, water and dried fruit or energy bars.

Preparing the homestead
There’s nothing cozier than a roaring fire. If you use your fireplace regularly, have your chimney inspected and cleaned every year and install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. Don’t forget to get your furnace inspected and cleaned before winter. If you must use space heaters, make sure they’re Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) certified, not too large for the space you’re heating and positioned away from foot traffic. While candles add ambiance to a cold winter’s night, they fall under the fire hazard category. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 50 percent of candle fires start because a candle is placed too close to something that might burn, like a mattress, curtain, blanket or piece of furniture. Consider using battery operated candles or electric warmers with low-wattage light bulbs. If you must use a candle, place it in a metal, glass or ceramic holder and find a spot where it cannot be tipped or knocked over.

Be it old man winter, Jack Frost or Father Frost, the worst of our weather may be right around the corner, so be prepared.

By: Anne Gill 

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