We are now well into winter. Between extreme cold, snow, and ice, it’s important to take precautions to avoid injury through the winter months. Here are some tips to help keep you safe this season.
Minimize travel. When the weather is extremely cold, stay inside as much as possible to avoid frostbite and other cold-related injuries. Additionally road conditions can be more hazardous and if you have car trouble you can end up stuck in the cold. Ask yourself before leaving the house if the trip is necessary.
Prepare your car. Make sure you have an emergency kit in your car. This can include gloves, a shovel, jumper cables, jacket, boots, a blanket, salt/kitty litter, an ice scraper, and more. You also want to make sure your car is in good shape for winter driving. Check your tires and tire pressure, check your antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid levels, use a wintertime washer fluid if possible, make sure your heater/defroster are working properly, and keep your gas tank full or mostly full.
Drive cautiously. Be extra careful when driving in the winter. Avoid using cruise control in wintry conditions. If you begin to slide, steer in the direction of the skid so when your wheels regain traction you don’t have to overcorrect. You should also accelerate and decelerate more slowly, increase your following distance between you and the car ahead of you, and don’t stop when traveling uphill if possible.
Prepare your home. Your home should be ready for winter as well. Check your heating system, chimneys and fireplaces, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, etc. If you are burning fires or candles, always keep a close eye on them. Make sure you have salt and/or shovels on hand and keep walkways clear. Just as you should have an emergency kit for your car, you should also have one for at home. It should include flashlights, extra batteries, a first-aid kit, extra medicine, and baby and pet items if applicable. It should also include food and water for three days, warm clothing, and toys and games for children in case you lose power or must evacuate.
Check in with elderly loved ones. Elderly family, friends, and neighbors are at greater risk for falls in the winter. Help them get the groceries and other supplies they need so they can stay home as much as possible, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. You can call or text them to find out what they need and safely drop it on their porch.
Dress appropriately. Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing with hats and mittens. Use a scarf or other face covering to protect your lungs from extreme cold and try to stay dry and out of the wind.
Take steps to prepare when enjoying outdoor activities. Outdoor winter activities can be fun, especially when there’s snow. If you go outside, dress properly and move slowly to avoid serious illness or injury such as injuries from falls, hypothermia, and frostbite.
Be cautious when shoveling and snow blowing. Snow removal can be grueling, especially if you are not a person who is active regularly. Avoid shoveling after eating or while smoking, take it slow, stretch before you begin, push snow instead of lifting, use your legs more than your back, don’t work to the point of exhaustion, and know the signs of a heart attack and call 911 immediately if you experience them.
Watch out for carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors in working condition and watch out for signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. The most common symptoms are often described as “flu-like” such as headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. If you think you’re experiencing them, leave the house and seek medical attention.
Walk carefully to prevent falls. Falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injury for adults age 45 and older. Wear shoes that fit properly and have good traction. Leave yourself plenty of time when going places so you are not rushing. Walk like a penguin taking short steps and walking as flat-footed as possible on slippery ground. Keeping your hands free will help you balance so avoid carrying things or putting your hands in your pockets. Remove snow and ice from walkways frequently and make sure walkways are well lit in the mornings and evenings.
Keep your phone charged. Make sure your phone is charged and with you at all times in the winter. If you have an emergency while walking, driving, or playing outside, you want to make sure you are able to call for help.
If you experience minor illness or injury this winter, Fisher-Titus Convenient Care is available with evening and weekend hours at 368 Milan Ave. in Norwalk, next to Bob Evans. And, of course, if you have a medical emergency, the Fisher-Titus Emergency Department is here for you 24/7.
Leash Kastor, FNP is a nurse practitioner with Fisher-Titus Convenient Care. A native of Sandusky, Leah has over ten years of experience as a registered nurse including emergency nursing. Convenient Care is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from9 a.m.-3 p.m.