Record low temperatures in many parts of the country has heightened the risk of frostbite, hypothermia, and dehydration.
In extreme winter conditions, when wind chill drops temperatures below zero, frostbite can develop in as little as fifteen minutes.
Body parts at risk are your nose, fingers, toes and ears, especially those body parts that may be exposed; body heat is naturally reserved in the torso to protect the vital organs.
Here are 10 ways to stay warm, and avoid frostbite and hypothermia:
1) Wear Layers
The more layers of clothing you wear, the less heat escapes from your body because warm air is trapped within the layers. The layer closest to your skin should be wool or synthetic material because cotton absorbs moisture. Begin with a t-shirt, and long underwear, a shirt and sweat pants, then regular pants and a sweater or fleece, and finally a waterproof and insulated coat.
2) Wear a Hat
A hat is especially important because a large portion of body heat loss is through the head. It goes without saying that you should wear mittens, gloves and a scarf.
3) Limit Your Outdoor Activity
Skin exposure can lead to frostbite and hypothermia — the condition of having an abnormally low body temperature. Frostbite can occur within 15 minutes of exposure. When shoveling or walking in deep snow, avoid straining too much which could lead to a heart attack.
4) Watch For Signs of Overexposure
If your skin becomes pale, itchy or tingling, or grayish-yellow, those could be signs that frostbite has occurred. Then comes numbness and blisters. And if you begin feeling confused or dizzy you may be developing hypothermia. Get inside.
5) Stock up on Supplies
Pay attention to weather broadcasts and if you know colder that normal temperatures are on the way, stock up on food and safety supplies to avoid having to leave the house. You should include drinking water, canned food, prescription drugs, and batteries.
6) If You Must Drive
Fill your gas tank before cold weather arrives and if you must drive take your cell phone. Keep blankets, extra clothes, jumper cables, a compass, flash light and a bag of road salt for traction if your car gets stuck.
If your vehicle stalls or gets stuck in snow, remain inside rather than risk exposure and hypothermia until you see another car approach that you can flag down. Run the engine for about 10 minutes each hour after checking that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe.
7) Power Outage
If the power goes out you will no longer have a source of heat unless you have a generator. First check to make sure you have not blown a circuit. Check the circuit breakers in your home’s electrical panel. If power is out in your entire neighborhood, call your local utility company to report the outage.
Even with electronic gas stoves, the top burners can be lit with a match, and possibly even the oven, and although the CDC claims the fumes can kill, you can use the oven to bake cookies or anything else that will need to be cooked. Stay as close to the kitchen as you can. Use candles. These will produce more heat than you realize, but make sure they are safely placed, and are blown out when somebody leave the house.
Obviously, if you have a fireplace or burning stove, use it. Don’t use generators/grills in or next to your home because the fumes are toxic. If you’re cold, take a warm shower to increase your body temperature. Your hot water tank will stay warm for a few hours.
If you’re able to use a generator, space heaters should be placed on a level surface at least three feet away from anything flammable. Turn them off before going to bed. If the power remains out for more than 2-4 hours, and you have no alternative source of heat, make arrangements to leave your house for heated shelter by calling friends, family or 911.
In the meantime, close all room doors and everyone should stay in one room to stay warm. Dress to stay warm – wear layers, including a sweater, sweatshirt or even a jacket.
8) Frozen Pipes
To avoid frozen pipes, keep water running at a dribble. Open cabinet doors to sinks to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes.
9) Staying Warm Inside
Pull all curtains and blinds shut in order to keep heat in. Close doors to rooms that are not used, as long as there is not water in them. Make sure vents are not covered by furniture. Avoid overloading electrical circuits with electric heaters. Insulate windows with plastic.
These record cold temperatures should serve as a learning experience for the next time extreme weather occurs, which means you should ensure every year that your furnace receives proper maintenance. If you live in an apartment or rent a house, ask the landlord to check furnaces and replace filters if necessary.
10) Don’t Forget Your Pets
It is important to protect pets from being left outside too long and getting hypothermia. “If you wouldn’t stay out in that weather, your pet shouldn’t either,” said Director of Pet Care Issues for the Humane Society. Pets should stay indoors for the winter as much as possible, even if they are normally outdoor animals.