Staying Safe in Cold Weather
Alan S. Rosenberg, M.D.
Emergency Services, EMPact Emergency Physicians, LLC
During the cold weather season, it's important to know how to protect yourself from potential cold weather hazards. When you’re exposed to the cold, the first line of defense is to wear loose-fitting clothing and dress in layers. Since nearly half of the body’s heat can escape through the surface of the head and neck, it is important to wear a hat and scarf. This can help prevent frostbite and hypothermia. Shoveling snow can also be dangerous to one’s health. Physically unfit people who engage in any strenuous activities such as shoveling snow are at higher risk for a heart attack than the physically fit. Older adults, people with high blood pressure and those with a history of heart disease or risk factors such as smoking, obesity and high cholesterol levels should not shovel snow without discussing it with their physician. Below are some tips to help prevent illness and injury this winter:
- Keep hydrated — Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
- Dress properly — Wear outer clothing that shields the wind and sun from your skin. Cold and windy air causes a wind-chill effect that is much colder and more dangerous than the outside air temperature.
- Eat light — A snack before going out in the cold is better than a heavy meal, which requires a large blood flow to the gastrointestinal system to aid in digestion. The digestive process may prevent warm blood from circulating to your fingers and toes. Save the heavier meal for when you are safely back inside.
- Avoid alcohol — Alcohol causes your body to lose heat, in addition to contributing to dehydration.
- Ask about your medications — Inquire with your physician if any of the medications you take can make
you more susceptible to a cold weather illness.