Posted by: Chelsea Hampton | November 8, 2012

Cold Weather Wellness Savvy – Part II

While cold weather seasons can bring on a number of risks and hazards, there are numerous ways to prevent illness and injury with a little cold weather wellness savvy! Snowstorms and cold temperatures require preparation. Proactive decision-making can help prevent disasters and accidents, and being smart about cold weather does not require a lot of effort. A simple action, such as keeping an emergency bag on hand stocked with up-to-date supplies, can be a lifesaver in the event of getting stranded on the road. Preventative measures like wearing adequate layers of clothing and sturdy, non-slip footwear help guard against the perils of ice and cold. That chilly time of year is here, so read on for tips for staying safe and well!

To begin with, here is a brief overview of common risks and hazards of cold weather from last week’s post:

– Cardiovascular problems induced by cold temperatures and strenuous activity

– Increased risk and susceptibility for catching colds, flu and other illnesses

– Additional stresses during cold weather seasons

– Risk of injury and vehicle accidents due to snow and ice

– Inadequate preparation within the home for cold weather and snow storms

– Inadequate preparation for traveling during cold weather seasons

– Carbon monoxide dangers

– Risks of hypothermia and frostbite

Here are tips for staying safe and well which address each of the risks and hazards above:

Cardiovascular problems induced by cold temperatures and strenuous activity

-Use caution during colder temperatures if a heart condition or other health issue exists, and avoid strenuous activity outdoors during cold weather.

Increased risk and susceptibility for catching colds, flu and other illnesses 

Wash your hands often and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable.

-Avoid touching your face. Also, avoid touching door handles, banisters, and other surfaces in public facilities as much as possible.

-Reinforce healthy habits. Eating well and remembering self-care are important for maintaining optimal health.

Additional stresses during cold weather seasons

-Cortisol, a primary stress hormone, suppresses the body’s immune system. During periods of chronic or long-term stress, this can interfere with the ability to fight off infections, which is why it is important to incorporate healthy, stress-relieving activities daily.

-Get plenty of sleep.

-Maintain an exercise regimen during colder months, and take workouts inside when necessary. In addition to providing a variety of health benefits, exercise is a great stress reliever.

-Many stresses pop up during the holiday season, especially in relation to finances and lack of time. A helpful tip that can be applied to both of these issues involves not spreading oneself too thin. If family gatherings and holiday festivities are coming up, it helps to prioritize one’s time, schedule events, and budget expenses ahead of time. The holiday season doesn’t have to be a drain on time, money and energy!

Risk of injury and vehicle accidents due to snow and ice

-When walking on snow or ice, use caution and always wear warm, non-slip footwear.

-If spending time outdoors during poor weather conditions or low visibility, wear bright, reflective clothing.

-Make sure vehicles are equipped with proper snow tires that still have decent tread.

-Avoid traveling great distances in poor weather conditions and do not continue to travel if fatigue sets in.

 Being prepared within the home for cold weather and snow storms

-Make sure the home has adequate insulation and install weather stripping.

-Make sure any leaks and window problems have been repaired before winter storms hit.

-Be prepared for power outages. Keep an emergency kit ready with items such as flashlights, extra batteries, matches, candles, first-aid kit, no-cook meals and more.

-Keep bottled water on hand in case water lines freeze.

-Older adults, babies, and individuals with health conditions may be especially vulnerable during weather-related emergencies and cold exposure. In addition to having portable heat sources on hand, persons with oxygen needs should keep a small generator in case of power outages.

-If storm warnings have been issued, make sure cell phones are fully charged.

Being prepared for traveling during cold weather seasons

-Always have a thorough vehicle safety inspection done before traveling during cold weather seasons.

-Always keep an emergency bag on hand with up-to-date supplies and snacks.

-Pack warm blankets and water when traveling.

-Dress warmly even when traveling.

-Make sure cell phones have been fully charged prior to travel, and bring a travel charger if possible.

Carbon monoxide dangers

-Be aware of carbon monoxide risks within the home and in vehicles. Install carbon monoxide detectors within the home, especially if using gas heating systems, appliances, or generators.

Risks of hypothermia and frostbite 

-Dress appropriately and wear layers when outdoors!

-Keep extremities covered with warm gloves and a hat.

-Stay indoors during excessively cold temperatures and/or poor weather conditions. When spending time outdoors during cold seasons, take frequent breaks in warm shelter.

-When working outdoors, work in pairs if possible and be sure to have a communication device. This is especially important when working in isolated, rural areas.

-Know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite!

Stay safe and well during the cold weather seasons!

Information obtained and adapted from the following sources:

-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: CDC Features: Be Prepared to Stay Safe and Healthy in Winter. http://www.cdc.gov/features/winterweather/.

-Kirchheimer, Sid. (2011). 5 Hidden health dangers of winter: How to stay safe when the cold can play havoc with heart, blood pressure and lungs. AARP Bulletin. Retrieved from: http://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-12-2010/hidden_health_dangers_of_winter.html.

-Park, Madison. (2010). Four ways to avoid getting sick during the holiday season. CNN Health. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/12/20/sick.holidays/index.html.

– U.S. Department of Labor: Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Winter Storms.  Retrieved from: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/emergencypreparedness/guides/winterstorms.html.

This information is provided courtesy of the Wyoming AgrAbility Project. For more information, visit our website or call toll-free at 866-395-4986.

 

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