While the winter can be enchanting with beautiful snowfalls, it is also ripe with hazards that can cause injury or even worse. But you can manage the cold with good old-fashioned common sense!
The cold weather can put anyone in jeopardy, as the temperature can increase heart rate and blood pressure. Blood clots more easily and constricts arteries, decreasing blood supply. About 11,500 people experience injuries, and about 100 people die annually from shoveling snow.
According to Aging.com, the elderly are particularly susceptible to the cold because elders tend to have less body fat, less efficient circulation, and a slower metabolism. Certain medications and health conditions can also affect an elder's ability to regulate body temperature. They are also prone to hypothermia if their home is not adequately heated.
Children need protection from the cold as they do not always recognize the warning signs of frostbite or dehydration.
Not only are people at risk of a variety of winter dangers, so are your pets, so don't forget about them.
Below are some valuable tips to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your pets from the perils of winter weather.
Practice Sensible Shoveling and Snow Blowing Techniques
Below are some shoveling tips from the National Safety Council to protect from backaches, heart attacks, and other injuries:
- Do not shovel after eating or while smoking.
- Take it slow and stretch out before you begin.
- Push the snow rather than lift it.
- Lift with your legs, not your back.
- Do not work to the point of exhaustion.
- Know the signs of a heart attack, and stop immediately and call 911 if you're experiencing any of them.
Below are some snow blowing tips from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons:
- If the blower jams, turn it off.
- Never stick your hands in the snowblower.
- Do not leave the snow blower unattended when it is running.
- Be aware of the carbon monoxide risk of running a snow blower in an enclosed space.
- Add fuel outdoors before starting, and never add fuel when running.
Check-In on Vulnerable People
Below are some helpful tips from Aging.com to increase elderly safety and help protect disabled families and neighbors:
- Prevent hypothermia indoors and outdoors. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) recommends setting the heat to at least 68–70 degrees Fahrenheit to keep elders safe.
- Encourage hydration.
- Prepare for ice and snow to minimize fall risk.
- Make a disaster kit containing enough nonperishable food and water for several days, a can opener, a few days' worths of necessary medications, a flashlight, a battery-powered radio, extra batteries, and first-aid essentials.
- Be smart about space heaters and never use an oven as a heat source. If using a gas-powered heater or generator, make sure there is at least one carbon monoxide detector. For electric heaters, inspect all power cords for fraying and remove any damaged devices.
- Bundle them up by wearing layers indoors and outdoors.
Below are some helpful tips from Savethechildren.org to protect your children from the cold:
- Dress them in lots of layers.
- Keep them off streets even if closed to traffic—visibility is poor, and if a car doesn't heed the road closure, it could hit your child.
- Beware of clothing hazards, such as scarves and hood strings.
- Watch for signs of frostbite.
- Make sure they wear protective equipment like helmets when enjoying snow activities.
Protect Your Four-Legged Furry Friend from Freezing
Below are some tips from the ASPCA about how to increase pet safety during the cold winter months:
- Keep your pets inside during the cold.
- Towel dry your pet as soon as he comes inside, paying attention to his feet and in-between the toes.
- Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter.
- Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells to prevent the chance of developing dry, flaky skin.
- Massage petroleum jelly into paw pads before going outside to help protect from salt and chemical agents. Booties provide even more coverage.
- Feed your pet a little more during the cold weather months to provide needed calories as your pet burns extra energy to increase warmth.
- Keep coolant and antifreeze away from pets.
Winterize Your Car
Below are some tips from Carmax on how best to prepare your car for the winter to keep you safe on the roads and equip you with the necessary tools in case you breakdown in the snow:
- Replace wiper blades twice a year and fill the windshield washer tank with freeze-resistant solution.
- Check car battery to make sure battery terminals are free from corrosion.
- Check tire pressure since cold weather causes tires to contract and pressure to drop.
- Check tire treads. Put a penny headfirst between the treads. If you can see the top of Lincoln's hair, it's time to replace the tire.
- Check spare tire for air pressure, tread depth, and all tire-changing equipment is in the vehicle.
- Make sure lights, heater, and defrosters work correctly.
- Check rubber hoses and belts for damage.
- Get the brake system checked.
- Assemble a winter emergency supply kit and keep it in the trunk. Include a phone charger, blanket, extra boots, gloves, an ice scraper, windshield washer fluid, jumper cables, first-aid kit, flares, small snow shovel, flashlight, bottled water, and kitty litter (creates traction when stuck in snow).
Weatherproof Your House
Below are some tips from House to Home Organizing on how to protect your home, so you don't suffer from hypothermia, injuries from a collapsed roof, or excessive energy bills:
- Seal pipes and ducts.
- Fix cracks around doors and windows.
- Keep an eye on your roof for cracks and broken shingles. Consider investing in a metal roof.
- Purchase a programmable thermostat that automatically regulates your house's interior temperature to save you money on your energy bill.
We hope you find these tips helpful—let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Research and materials for this article were compiled, written, and distributed on behalf of the National Public Health Information Coalition. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the various authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Public Health Information Coalition or its members.