Cold Weather Tidbits

Cold Weather Safety Tidbits

By Peggy Moore

In Iowa this past week, temperatures dropped well below zero.  Add to that the extreme wind chill and many people are finding it challenging to stay warm outdoors.  Below are some cold weather safety tidbits:

  •           Protect your hands (mittens are warmer than gloves) and feet (wear moisture-resistant socks). 
  •           Wear a hat – approximately 40% of heat is lost through your head.
  •           Wear a scarf or mask to cover your mouth and face (also protects your lungs).
  •           Dress in several loose layers to prevent perspiration – excess perspiration leads to heat loss.
  •           Wear water-resistant/wind-resistant coat and boots.

Make sure you limit your time outdoors.   Hypothermia, the lowering of the body’s core temperature, can occur within minutes.  Symptoms of mild hypothermia are uncontrollable shivering, slurred speech, impaired judgment, slowed reflexes, and loss of coordination.  One should return to shelter to block wind/precipitation, remove wet clothing, eat something, drink warm liquids, cuddle with another person to share body heat (skin to skin contact is the best), and increase heat production by exercising.

According to the Enviro-Tech International’s website, “The best method of prevention is to be prepared for the worst conditions, no matter what the conditions are at the time you look out of the window.  Anticipate every problem which may arise and be prepared for it.  The best defense against hypothermia is to understand it.  The next step is to use the layering system.  Always carry extra clothes with you.  This may save your life.  It’s also important to keep the body’s furnace stoked with fuel.  By eating easily digested food such as carbohydrates, frequently throughout the day, the body can maintain its normal heat production.  Keep your body hydrated.  Force yourself to drink fluids on cold days.  The body can’t effectively use the food it has without the proper amount of fluid in the system.  Always carry emergency gear with you.”

Frostbite can also occur during extreme cold temperatures.  It causes a loss of feeling and color to affected areas and most commonly occurs in the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes.  In severe cases, frostbite can lead to amputation.  The first sign of frostbite is redness or pain in the affected area.  If one is able to get out of the cold, this is the time to do it.  Other symptoms include numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin and skin that feels unusually firm or waxy.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, when frostbite occurs, “Get into a warm room as soon as possible.  Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes.  Immerse the affected area in warm – not hot – water or warm the affected area using body heat…Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all.  This can cause more damage.  Don’t use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming.  Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.”

Not only do we need to pay special attention to the weather, what we wear, and how we protect ourselves from the elements, it’s also important to remember the smaller member’s of our families – our pets – and their needs during the blistering cold.  Remember, if the weather is too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet.  The ASPCA put together a list of 10 cold weather tips for your pets and is featured below:

1.      Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze or become lost or be stolen, injured, or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs, and wildlife. 

2.      During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape. 

3.      Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.  

4.      Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.

5.      Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear. 

6.      Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death. 

7.      Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself. 

8.      Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him, and his fur, in tip-top shape. 

9.      Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center more information. 

10.  Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.

It’s only January so winter is going to be around for a few more months.  Just remember to take care of yourself and your pets.  Stay inside when possible and limit your outdoor activity.  Taking the necessary precautions will prevent injury.

For more cold weather tidbits, visit the links below.