By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*
When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, exposure to the cold—whether indoors or outside—can cause serious or life-threatening health problems. Infants and the elderly are most at risk, but anyone can be affected.
Be safe and be prepared for hazards associated with extremely cold weather.
Winter Weather Prep Tips:
Have a winter survival kit in your home that consists of:
- Food that needs no cooking or refrigeration such as bread, crackers, cereal, canned foods and dried fruits. If you have young children, don’t forget baby food and formula.
- Water stored in clean containers or bottled water. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 5 gallons per person on hand in case pipes freeze or rupture.
- Medicines that any family member may need.
Remember, if your home is isolated, stock up on additional food, water and medicine.
Have an emergency supply list. Some handy and essential items to include:
- an alternate way to heat your home during a power failure
- fire extinguisher
- flashlight or battery-powered lantern and extra batteries
- battery-powered radio and clock/watch
- non-electric can opener
- snow shovel
- rock salt
- special need items (diapers, hearing aid batteries, medications etc.)
Your ability to feel a change of temperature decreases with age, and older people are susceptible to health problems caused by cold. If you are 65 years of age or older, check the temperature of your home often during winter months. If a warm, indoor temperature cannot be maintained, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere.
Infants less than one year old should never sleep in a cold room. Provide warm clothing for infants and try to maintain a warm indoor temperature. If a warm indoor temperature cannot be maintained, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere.
If you are using a fireplace, wood stove or kerosene heater, always install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Heat your home safely!
Conserve heat. Keep as much heat as possible in your home. Close off unneeded rooms, stuff towels/rags in cracks under doors, close drapes, cover windows with any extra blankets at night.
Dress warmly and stay dry. Do not ignore shivering—it is an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a sign to return indoors.
Avoid exertion. Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have to work outside, dress warmly and work slowly.
Eat and drink wisely. Eating well-balanced meals will help you stay warmer. Do not drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages—they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly.
Listen to weather forecasts regularly. Weather forecasters often give several days’ notice when impending cold weather is approaching. Check your emergency supplies when periods of extreme cold are predicted.
GET PREPARED! DON’T BE LEFT OUT IN THE COLD!
Excerpts from the CDC Extreme Cold Prevention Guide
*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.