7 Quick, Cold Weather Safety Tips
Winter in southwest Ohio can bring below-freezing temperatures one week and 50-degree days the next, but that doesn’t mean the season should be taken lightly.
“It may seem like common sense, but staying warm is the key to staying healthy in winter,” said Scott Brooks, loss prevention captain with the West Chester Fire Department. “Cold weather can cause permanent damage to your body and even death if you don’t take precautions.”
The biggest dangers of being out in the cold are risk of frostbite, which can have irreversible effects, and hypothermia, a condition that may lead to death. Fortunately, both are treatable if caught in time and preventable.
Cover Up: Before stepping out the door, make sure as much bare skin is covered as possible. Direct exposure to cold temperatures and wind increases the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. Gloves and hats are essential – most body heat exits your head. In extreme cold, use a scarf, wrap or facemask to cover the mouth and face.
Layer Up: Dressing in layers allows you to regulate your temperature. Several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing is better than one layer of heavy clothing. Take off items to cool down and add items to warm up. Outer layers should be wind resistant and inner layers should include warm materials, like wool. Double up on tops, bottoms, socks and gloves/mittens.
Keep Moving: Moving around will increase the amount of heat your body naturally produces. This is actually why people shiver when cold. Shivering is a reflex that causes muscle movement for the purpose of creating heat. In a similar way, eating helps your body generate its own heat, too, so don’t leave home on an empty stomach if you plan to be outside long.
Stay Dry: Keep your body and your clothing dry – this includes limiting sweating. Moisture is dangerous because it speeds up the onset of hypothermia. If you can’t avoid getting wet, have a dry set of clothing nearby. Change hats, gloves, socks, and boots as often as necessary. Counteract sweating by removing layers when you get too warm.
Stay Hydrated: Not all moisture is bad! Putting liquids inside your body is a good thing, for the most part. Dehydration occurs faster in cold, dry weather. Stay hydrated, especially during physical activity; however, avoid beverages with caffeine and alcohol. These substances pull body heat away from your core, effectively working against your efforts to keep warm.
Seek Shelter: Whether you’re playing in the snow, waiting at the bus stop, or working outdoors in winter, it’s important to limit your time outside. Take small breaks inside a car, building, or other warm place away from the wind. Use extra caution with pets, the elderly and children.
Spot Symptoms: Know the symptom of frostbite and hypothermia. Symptoms of frostbite include a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in the extremities. Signs of hypothermia are uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation and utter exhaustion.
Getting warm is the first step in treating hypothermia and frostbite. Use blankets, towels or warm clothing. If possible, move indoors into a warmer area when it is safe to do so.
Avoid rubbing or massaging cold skin. Never use hot water in a bath or shower; in cases of frostbite, warm water may be used instead. If you suspect hypothermia, elevate the victim’s legs and place hot water bottles on feet.
In an emergency, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately if symptoms persist.