Winter Weather Safety Tips

Related topics: Health & Wellness, Caregivers, Senior Life

It's January, and winter is in full swing over most of the country. During the chillier months, it can be tempting to hunker down by the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate—but this time of year, it is just as important for seniors to be active and engaged.

Make the effort to get out and about. But first, take a few simple steps to be sure your time in the "Winter Wonderland" is safe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers tips for January outings. These are great ideas for anyone, and are especially important for older adults, who are at greater risk of cold weather safety challenges.

  • Take precautions if you travel. Listen for radio or TV reports of travel advisories issued by the National Weather Service. Avoid travel in low visibility and on ice-covered roads. If you must travel in ice or snow, let someone know your destination and when you expect to arrive. Bring a mobile phone with you. Use this checklist to create a winter weather safety kit for your car.
  • Dress warmly and stay dry. When it’s cold, wear a hat, a scarf or knit mask to cover the face and mouth, mittens (rather than gloves, which are not as warm), water-resistant coat and boots, and several layers of loose-fitting clothing. Be sure the outer layer of your clothing is tightly woven, preferably wind-resistant, to reduce body-heat loss. And if you begin to feel too warm, shed a layer or two. Excess perspiration increases heat loss.
  • Avoid hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when the body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Hypothermia is most common when temperatures are very cold, but can occur even at temperatures about 40 degrees if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat or submersion in cold water. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making it difficult for the victim to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.
  • Avoid frostbite. Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.
  • Avoid exertion. Cold weather puts a strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor's advice about shoveling snow or performing other outdoor tasks.
  • Avoid ice. Many cold-weather injuries result from falls on ice-covered sidewalks, steps, driveways and porches. Keep steps and walkways as free of ice as possible by using rock salt or another chemical de-icing compound. Sand may also be used on walkways to reduce the risk of slipping.

For More Information

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers information about frostbite and hypothermia and more advice about winter weather safety.

Just for fun…try your hand at the "Warm Winter Wear" wordfind in this issue of the newsletter!

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