Here in the Midwest, we’re used to very cold weather but it’s still important to think about what we need to do and take care of during an extremely cold spell.
Even if you are only going to be outside briefly, you need to dress for it. Dress in several light layers, making sure your top layer is water and windproof. Layers trap warm air in between them and are more effective than one heavy layer. Always wear boots. When purchasing, only buy boots that are waterPROOF, not just water resistant. Always wear gloves and double up with mittens if working outside for any length of time. Wear a hat that covers your ears and a scarf over your mouth to protect your lungs.
Frostbite can occur in as little as 10 minutes in extreme conditions. Your body keeps the most heat around vital organs, so the body parts furthest away from your heart will be affected first. Feet, fingers, and earlobes are first in line, but really any exposed skin is in danger. Frost bit skin is numb and whitish in appearance. Warm the area slowly, never start with hot water. Wrap in blankets or barely warm compresses. Hypothermia is extremely dangerous. Symptoms often mimic drunkenness and include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, slurred speech, disorientation, and fatigue. First wrap victim in blankets, then seek medical attention immediately.
In the house, always keep your heating system well maintained. Carbon monoxide is a deadly colorless, odorless gas. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can resemble flu with headaches, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness. Keep carbon monoxide detectors on every level in the house. Any appliance that burns fuel can produce carbon monoxide. Water heaters, gas dryers, the furnace, and un-properly vented fireplaces can be culprits. Also be careful with attached garages, warming cars in the winter can fill a house with gas very quickly. Extreme cold can also freeze water pipes causing them to burst. Know where your main water shut off is. This will minimize damage in the event a pipe bursts. Insulate pipes, especially pipes located on exterior walls. Do not use flame to thaw pipes, a hair dryer is safer.
Take a little time to remember how to be safe and healthy during severe cold weather!
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO