Brrr! Cold Weather Safety Tips
Thursday, December 06, 2012

Dr. Jacqueline Riedel

No matter what that silly groundhog in Punxsutawney has to say, winter weather will be with us for a few more months. Here are some tips from a family doctor to help you stay safe during cold weather.

  • Wear proper footgear for outdoor activities to prevent slip and falls. Depending on your hobbies, this may include spikes on the soles of shoes, wearing snow boots, or choosing footwear with a heavy tread. Avoid smooth-bottomed gear such as house slippers and boat shoes, and stick to salted walkways to increase traction. Run or walk indoors at a gym, community center or mall when ice and snow make safe routes impassable. If you have a disability that requires you to use a cane, walker or other assistive device for ambulating, be sure to have someone close by to provide help when venturing outdoors.
  • Be prepared for the worst! Winter can sometimes produce surprise snowstorms that may force us to drive in less-than-ideal conditions. If possible, stay where you are until the storm clears. If you must drive, keep headlights on to increase visibility. Keep a blanket, snow shovel, jumper cables, water, and a full tank of gas in your car in case you are forced to pull over and wait out a storm.
  • Winter storms bring the possibility of power outages. Be cautious using space heaters, kerosene lamps, stove or wood fire for heat - these can all give off dangerous chemicals, including carbon monoxide. All homes should be equipped with a carbon monoxide detector. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include: headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, chest pain and confusion. These symptoms can ultimately lead to loss of consciousness, and even death. Suspected victims of carbon monoxide poisoning should be evaluated immediately at the closest hospital Emergency Room.
  • Exposure to unusually cold weather can place us at risk of developing cold-related damage to the skin, also known as frostbite.
    • Areas commonly affected include: the nose, cheeks, chin, ears, fingers and toes.
    • Signs of injury include: numbness or pain in the area, a white or yellow color or waxy appearance of the affected skin. When clearing snow or working outside in the cold, come inside to warm up every 15 minutes or so to prevent frostbite. Also, protect fingers and toes with mittens or gloves and thick socks; wear a hat to keep ears and cheeks warm. If you suspect frostbite, contact your doctor immediately.

Dr. Jacqueline Riedel is a Family Medicine physician and a member of the Kennedy Health Alliance. She practices in West Deptford, NJ, and can be reached by calling 856-384-0210.