With winter upon us and some areas plummeting in temperatures, it is important to know how to stay safe in dangerous and frigid cold conditions. One way to stay safe is to be prepared for the cold weather and know what the signs of danger are. Here are several ways to protect yourself when the dangerous temperatures hit.
Walking On Ice, Hypothermia, And Winter Emergency Kits:
8 Ways To Stay Safe In The Frigid Cold
1. Learn How to Walk on Ice ─ Like a Penguin!
I’ve read that a prominent cause of injuries resulting in ER visits during the wintertime is due to falls on the ice. When you lose your balance on the ice and fall, the results can be anywhere from a sore behind to a major back injury, head injury, or a fractured or broken bone. Therefore, in the frigid cold, it is imperative to learn how to walk on the ice in a way that can prevent you and your family from falling and being injured.
And, one way to walk safely, is like a penguin!
To do this efficiently, take your hands out of your pockets (wear gloves!) and keep your arms out at your sides. . . just like this penguin in the photo above. Use your arms for balance, try to relax, and breath deeply to stay focused. Anxiety and not paying attention only make it harder to stay balanced. Keep your feet shoulder distance apart, and take small steps. . . in fact, waddle! By waddling, it helps to keep your body centered over your front legs, which helps with maintaining balance.
If you do fall, keep your body as relaxed as possible. Staying limber can help to prevent injury. Also, don’t fall onto your outstretched arms, or use your hands to stop the fall, if you can. Try to land on your bum, or even your upper thighs, where you have a bit more padding. A bruise is better than a broken wrist or arm.
Walking on Snow ─ Black Ice
Pay careful attention to black ice, or ice hidden under the snow. This condition is commonly found on roads and walkways where the ice has formed on the hard surface, and then snow has fallen on top of it. Don’t lose your focus when walking in such areas and be fooled into thinking you are safe.
2. Wear Boots With Good Tread!
I know that we all love our fashionable, wintertime boots! However, they don’t always have the best tread. Did you know that a recent study showed that 90% of the people’s boots whom they surveyed did not pass the tread test? If you are interested in checking out this tread test and testing your own boots, you can do so at the provided link. However, the best thing to do is to make sure you are wearing good, quality boots when you go outdoors in the frigid cold. Wearing waterproof and insulated boots is a good idea, as well, especially if you are going to be spending a significant amount of time outdoors. Put fashion aside during the frigid cold season and don’t sacrifice your safety.
3. Know the Signs of Frostnip and Frostbite ─ And, Know The Difference!
Frostnip is the tingling feeling which happens first. Frostnip is a warning that your body or body parts are becoming too cold. When the tingling begins to hurt when you move, say your fingers, it is a sign that you need to warm up that body part. Even though your skin might be extremely red, frostnip does not result in damage unless it is not tended to and turns into frostbite.
Frostbite begins when your skin starts to become numb and turn white, or pale. Your skin may begin to feel warm, but this is not a good sign at this stage, as it is more of an adverse reaction to the frostbite. It is critical that you treat frostbite with re-warming at the first signs to prevent permanent skin damage.
If you do not treat frostbite immediately, all of the layers of skin will be affected. You may experience complete numbness and may no longer be able to move that part of the body. As the skin dies, the affected area will turn black. As your body tries to fight it, you may experience intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination, and drowsiness. It is imperative to seek emergency medical help as soon as possible.
4. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning ─ Prevent it and Know the Signs!
Carbon monoxide is a gas that is odorless and sightless, so it is imperative to have a carbon monoxide detector to warn you of its presence. It is produced when you burn natural gas, wood, kerosene, and similar fuels, which many of us do over the winter months. It doesn’t matter if you have a natural gas or wood fireplace, a kerosene heater, or the like, you should always have a carbon monoxide detector equipped in your home.
Have your equipment tested for leaks each season, and make sure there is always proper ventilation during use. Ensure that your detector is not just a smoke detector. Some detectors are equipped to detect both smoke and gasses, while others are just for a particular element.
Remember that running engines, such as car engines, can also cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Don’t let your vehicle run inside an enclosed garage and make sure that there is always proper ventilation while operating an enclosed vehicle or engine.
Here are the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning:
- A dull headache
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
If you experience any of these symptoms, get outside to fresh air, if possible, and call 911 or go to an emergency room. Have sources turned off, and your home and the source tested as soon as possible.
5. Avoid Injuries From Snow Removal!
Snow shoveling is the top reason for back and spine injuries during the winter months ─ especially in areas that get a lot of snow each season. Shoveling is also cardiovascular work, so be sure to understand what you are getting yourself into. For the elderly, consider hiring a neighbor or a snow removal service to come and clear out your walkways, car, and driveway.
If you do shovel your own snow, be sure to lift with your legs, not your back. Furthermore, snow can be heavier than you realize, so test your load before lifting and throwing. Quickly lifting the shovel without realizing how heavy the load is, is a sure way to throw out your back. Moreover, dress warm ─ gloves, boots, waterproof leggings and coat, hat, and scarf!
6. Shivering ─ Pay Attention ─ Know the Signs and Treatments for Hypothermia!
Shivering is a sign that your overall body temperature is dropping. It doesn’t mean you are in danger yet, but depending on your situation, it could mean that you are heading towards a dangerously low body temperature or hypothermia. When you begin to shiver uncontrollably, don’t ignore it. Get to a warm place as soon as you can.
Signs of hypothermia:
- Experiencing clumsiness
- Experiencing confusion
- Feeling drowsy
- Shivering gets worse
- Shivering stops altogether
- Slurred speech
- Poor decision making – such as trying to remove your clothes
- Very low energy
Call 911 immediately if you experience these symptoms of hypothermia. If you can’t call 911, then try these treatment steps:
Treatments for hypothermia:
- Remove all wet clothing.
- Keep moving to raise body temperature – especially towards a warm shelter if possible.
- Begin re-warming – with dry clothing, blankets, heat packs, or by a fire.
- Drink hot liquids – but avoid alcohol and caffeine which can speed up heat loss.
- If you are with a person who loses consciousness due to hypothermia, feel for a pulse. Only administer CPR when there has been no sign of a pulse for 1 minute as hypothermia can cause a very slow heart rate, and it is dangerous to give CPR to someone who still has a heartbeat. Keep trying to warm their body up. Don’t offer hot liquid until after they are conscious and can swallow it themselves.
- Seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
7. Losing Body Heat ─ Protect Your Entire Body!
Always be sure that your entire body is protected when going outside in the frigid cold. You can lose body heat from your head, neck, torso, legs, hands, and feet! Don’t’ forget to cover your ears, as well, as they are susceptible to frostnip and frostbite.
8. Be Prepared ─ Have an Emergency Kit Available!
If possible, have these items either with you or within easy reach, if you are going to be spending time outdoors in the frigid cold.
Winter Emergency Kit:
- Extra gloves, hat, vest, jacket
- Blanket if possible
- Heat packs such as hand and feet warmers
- Headlamp or flashlight w/ extra batteries
- Basic first aid items
- Matches, lighter, or a fire starter
- Waterproof container with cotton or material for easy fire starting
- Knife and/or multitool
- Duct tape
- String or rope
- Water w/ refillable bottle and purifying system/iodine tabs
- Map, compass, GPS
- Reflective blanket
- Small tarp if you can carry it
Of course, this all depends on where you are heading. If you are just going outdoors to shovel your walkways, then have a kit available nearby.
However, if you are traveling in the winter time, you should always have a winter emergency kit in your car. If you are going hiking or doing work away from your home, you should carry an emergency kit backpack with you.
We, here at Zen want you to be prepared for the frigid cold, winter season. Remember to be smart. You never know when an emergency is going to happen. One good way to prevent an emergency is to be prepared and know the signs.
Do you have any wintertime safety tips? If so, let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!
Robin, and the Zen team.
*Note: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any health condition. Therefore, ask your doctor about any health concerns that you might have and seek proper medical treatment.
Photo Sources: Pixabay.com