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Winter Makes Many Americans More Vulnerable: Protect Yourself In Frigid Weather

January 7, 2010
With frigid temperatures still gripping much of the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that performing everyday activities can be challenging and dangerous, especially for older adults and those with chronically illness. Take safety measures indoors and out. When outside, dress in layers of light, warm clothing and wear mittens, hats, scarves and waterproof boots. Sprinkle cat litter or sand on icy patches, and work slowly when doing outside chores. Take a buddy and an emergency kit if you are participating in outdoor recreation. Avoid traveling when the weather service has issued advisories. If you must, inform a friend or relative of your proposed route and expected time of arrival, and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Know the symptoms of frostbite or hypothermia.  Frostbite causes skin to appear red and feel painful. Without immediate medical attention, skin will then turn white or grayish and feel firm, waxy or numb. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness. Prevent carbon monoxide emergencies. Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year and install a CO detector with a working battery to alert you of the presence of this deadly, odorless, colorless gas. When winter weather makes driving difficult, the safest place to be is off the road.  If you must drive, keep gas tank full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines and use a wintertime formula in your windshield washer. Keep a winter emergency kit in the car in case you become stranded, including blankets, water and non-perishable snacks. If you do become stranded in your car, stay with your car unless safety is no more than 100 yards away, but continue to move arms and legs to maintain circulation. Stay visible by putting bright cloth on the antenna, turning on the inside overhead light (when engine is running), and raising the hood when snow stops falling. Run the engine and heater only 10 minutes every hour, keep a downwind window open and make sure the tailpipe is not blocked to avoid fumes getting into the car.