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Cold Weather Safety Tips for the Family

Posted Date: 1/28/2015
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Extreme temperatures that fall well below freezing bring dangerous conditions.  Preparation is fundamental when dealing with negative temperatures and snowstorms.  Follow our tips to keep your family safe both inside and outside your home throughout the bitter cold this winter.

Using a furnace to heat the home is your best option.  Never attempt to heat your home using a stove or oven and limit the amount of time that a space heater or fireplace is used; these methods emit carbon monoxide and can build up in improperly ventilated areas.  In addition to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, which accounts for over 150 deaths per year in the US, these appliances can pose a fire hazard.  Make sure to have a functioning carbon monoxide detector in the home when heating during winter months.

Heavy snow can pull down power lines causing outages.  Being without power in extreme freezing temperatures is highly dangerous, but having an emergency kit can prepare you for the worst.  Make sure to have plenty of blankets, flashlights, extra batteries, a portable radio, water and canned food in the event that you’re stuck indoors for a few days.

When you have to leave the comfort of your warm home, or if the power goes out and indoors feels like outdoors, dressing your family appropriately is important to ensuring their safety from conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia.  Wear several layers, beginning with a base layer of a heat-trapping synthetic material as opposed to one heavy layer.  Protect extremities with thick socks and winter boots, mittens, and a hat or mask.  Take extra care to dress infants and children appropriately, both indoors and outdoors, as they lose body heat more easily than adults.  Maintain a warm temperature indoors when possible if you have an infant at home.

Snow removal in the bitter cold, including both shoveling and pushing a snow blower, puts stress on your lungs and heart.  Cold weather constricts arteries, which affects blood flow and allows clots to form more easily.  This might not pose troubles for younger people or those in good physical condition, but those with heart problems, a sedentary lifestyle or a smoking habit are at higher risk.  Cover your mouth with a scarf and stretch before exerting yourself outdoors.  Even if it takes a bit longer, lift light loads of snow rather than heavy ones and take frequent breaks.  Consider carrying a personal emergency response system or purchase one for elderly family members who are most likely to slip and fall on ice.

Pets are a part of your family too, so make sure to remember their safety in these conditions.  While some of our furry friends have longer or thicker winter coats for tolerating a colder climate, this does not mean that they are equipped for handling extreme temperatures for lengthy periods of time.  Put a sweater or jacket on your pet when going for a walk and limit the time spent outdoors.  If you don’t put booties on your pet to protect his or her paws, wipe them to remove toxic anti-freeze chemicals and salt that can irritate paw pads or cause poisoning.  Cold weather ailments such as frostbite and hypothermia are a real threat for pets as well, so seek veterinary attention if they show any signs of these conditions.

Warmer days are near approaching, but during these last few weeks of winter, remember these steps to stay safe.  Richmond University Medical Center cares about the wellness of you and your family, so trust in our doctors and medical staff to advise you on health tips not only in the winter months, but year-round.