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Winter Safety: Your Go-To Guide When the Weather Outside Is Frightful

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. 

References 

  1. https://www.nsc.org/community-safety/safety-topics/seasonal-safety/winter-safety/snow-shoveling 
  1. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/prevent-snow-shoveling-and-snowblowing-injuries/ 
  1. https://www.agingcare.com/articles/cold-weather-protection-for-seniors-148625.htm 
  1. https://www.h2horganizing.com/blog/2020/8/27/tips-for-weatherproofing-your-home 
  1. https://www.savethechildren.org/us/charity-stories/cold-weather-tips 
  1. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/cold-weather-safety-tips 

NPHIC Blog Posts

Six Healthy Habits for the New Year

As the holidays come blazing through, it’s tempting to place the things you’ve been intending to do to improve your health into an ever-growing “New Year’s Resolutions” heap. You may start the new year full of optimism but, if you’re like the majority of people, that heap begins melting into a puddle of best intentions and neglect by February. 

It can be daunting to attend the first spin class of a new session or to start a marathon training schedule. And, the more daunting the resolution, the less realistic it is that you will actually achieve your goal. However, New Year’s resolutions do not have to be drastic switch-ups. Instead, research shows that small, specific lifestyle changes are easier to follow through with than changes that are more abstract, and they can make a big impact on your health. 

Check out these six healthy habits that can kick start your wellness in 2022. 

Find a New Way to Move 

Physical activity is paramount when it comes to sustaining good health and longevity—in fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of physical activity a week. However, it can often feel unattainable to reach that weekly target when you have a fixed schedule and not a lot of extra time. 

One simple way to add physical exercise and movement into your pre-existing routine is to visualize the layout of your current workspace (whether it’s a home office or corporate floor) and then devise creative ways to move your body in a new manner. For example, if you work in a large office, can you take the stairs instead of the elevator? Can you park on the far side of the parking lot to guarantee a few more steps? 

Successful COVID-19 Campaigns: Connect, Communicate, Convince

You have many things to consider when planning to launch a COVID-19 public health campaign. First, you must understand and appreciate the unprecedented need for clear, accurate, and action-oriented information dissemination and engagement. With the amount of false information propagated by social media, it's imperative to be consistent with messaging. 

You must identify what types of information people are looking for and acknowledge the diversity of the communities you want to reach. The goal is to incorporate best practices from successful campaigns and avoid messaging that fails to connect, communicate, and convince. 

Generalized crises require customized advertising efforts for various communities and societies and also an evolving, multi-stage approach not recognized in prior research on health messaging. 

Examples of a few successful COVID-19 public service announcements (PSAs) and campaigns are described so you can identify best practices to incorporate as you craft your own COVID-19 public health campaign. 

How Parents Should Approach the Recent Federal Approval of COVID-19 Vaccine for Children 5-11

On November 2, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that all children ages 5 and older receive a COVID-19 vaccination. More than 11 million older children in the U.S. have already been vaccinated against COVID-19, and this new recommendation further widens the blanket of protection against this formidable public health threat. 

However, despite the CDC’s recent recommendation, if you have young children—or if you’re involved in supporting young children—you may harbor legitimate questions and concerns when deciding whether or not to vaccinate them. It can be daunting to sift through the available information to make the best possible health decision for your family. However, experts note that vaccinating young children is the best decision for children and the communities they live within. 

Here’s what you need to know about the importance of COVID-19 vaccines for the 28 million children in the U.S. who are between the ages of 5 and 11. 

Timeline of the Recent Vaccine Approval 

The CDC’s recommendation of COVID-19 vaccines in the 5 to 11 age group follows the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer vaccine in young children, which was granted on October 29, 2021. The CDC evaluated the research and data from clinical trials involving children and made this decision based on the evidence they saw of vaccine safety and vaccine efficacy in this age group. The same day that the CDC announced its recommendation, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) ushered forward its support and updated its own vaccine recommendations for young children. 

Combating Misinformation and Disinformation in the Social Media Era

What spreads faster than COVID-19? Misinformation on COVID-19. Misinformation (false information shared unconsciously) and disinformation (false information shared consciously to cause harm) are in fact harbingers of the modern pandemic. So how did we get here? 

The year 2020 hit us with a massive global health threat, and along with it, extreme socioeconomic damage. When this is the case, the mass population can react out of fear. Disinformation is just a reflection of societal anxieties. In the history of pandemics (the Bubonic Plague, the “Black Death,” the Columbian Exchange, and the Spanish flu), these anxieties were often projected onto other groups or nations as an attempt to distance fear. 

Misinformation dominating the pandemic response is nothing new, and this era of disinformation and scapegoating echoes historical patterns. That said, pandemic responses have deadly consequences. In an era where social media spreads misinformation at viral speeds, it’s time to treat the “infodemic” like the health threat it is. 

History as an Example 

During World War I, the outbreak of a new virus spread through troops, ramping up fear and threatening morale. The “Spanish Flu” (which more likely originated in Kansas) erupted as one of the deadliest outbreaks in history, killing an estimated 50 to 100 million people. 


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