Winter Safety - Keep Healthy During the Cold Winter Months
Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Quick tips for winter safety.

Winter’s here, and with it comes a season of distinctive beauty – and of some distinctive health risks. But it’s easy to keep safe — and stay fit — during the cold months. By following a few practical tips, you can enjoy a healthy winter season, no matter how much white stuff piles up outside.

Dr. Henry Schuitema, Medical Director of Kennedy – Stratford’s Emergency Department, offers a few helpful hints:

  • Wash your hands. “It’s the number one prevention tool against the spread of germs,” said Dr. Schuitema, adding that it’s especially important to wash after sharing toys, coughing, or blowing a runny nose.” You should wash your hands for at least 15 seconds; humming to “Happy Birthday” is a good way to time it out!
  • Get a flu shot if you haven’t already! It’s not too late to protect yourself from the flu. Older adults (75 and up) should also get a pneumonia shot.
  • Be careful shoveling. Snow shoveling is strenuous work. Adults need to not overdue it.  It's OK for older, school-age kids to help out, but young children should not shovel because they can strain their muscles.
  • Bundle up. Layering is always a good idea before venturing out in the cold. And don’t forget a hat, scarf and gloves for yourself and for your kids, too! “Up to 40% of body heat can be lost when the head is left exposed,” Dr. Schuitema said.
  • Don’t stay outside too long. “Kids especially can have a tough time knowing when to come inside from the cold,” Dr. Schuitema said. To nip hypothermia or frostbite in the bud, check on your children regularly to make sure that mittens are dry and warm and noses aren't too red.
  • Take your time. Don’t rush when you’re walking, even short distances. Ice can be sometimes hard to see and very treacherous when it’s “winter wonderland” time.
  • Use a sunscreen. You can still get sunburned in the winter, so using a sunscreen (with an SPF of at least 15) is important.
  • Be careful out there! If your kids decide to go sledding on their own for the day, make sure you know about the hill where they will be playing. Take extra care with cold-weather sports, too, and be sure to wear protective equipment.
  • Don’t consume too much alcohol – and never drink and drive.
  • Use common sense. “Many people – adults and children alike – end up in the ER because of injuries sustained during the winter months,” Dr. Schuitema said. “Use common sense and be extra careful while playing winter sports, climbing ladders, shoveling snow and walking in slippery conditions. ”

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