(Salisbury, MD) The recent dip in temperature is an important reminder to area residents to take seriously the health risks associated with cold temperatures. “It’s important to know how to prevent health problems during cold weather, whether you stay inside or have to venture outside.” said Lori Brewster, Wicomico County Health Officer.
Being aware of upcoming weather is the first line of defense. Listen to local radio or television news regularly. Weather reports usually inform you several days in advance when severe weather is heading your way. Use that lead time to get ready.
Be sure to dress properly whenever you have to be outside in cold weather. “Wind chills make the reported temperature feel colder, and cause the body to lose heat at a faster rate,” said Brewster. Cover your head, ears, and the lower part of your face to avoid frostbite. Drape a scarf over your mouth to avoid directly inhaling very cold air. Wear several layers of lightweight clothing and two pairs of socks. Choose mittens rather than gloves, to keep your hands warmer. Wear boots with slip-resistant treads to help keep you from slipping on ice, and use sunglasses to protect your eyes from winter sun glare.
Staying inside out of icy conditions reduces the risk of falls due to ice and car accidents, but can have its own hazards. “Using space heaters and fireplaces to keep warm increases the risk of household fires and carbon monoxide poisoning,” Brewster said. Rooms where a space heater is used should be well ventilated, with the interior door left open. Place heaters at least three feet away from furniture, draperies, and other objects. Space heaters should never be used to dry wet clothing, blankets, or other flammable items. Keep children and pets away from the heater. Be sure to turn off and unplug the heater before leaving the room or going to bed.
More ways to make your home safer in winter weather:
Have your chimney or flue professionally inspected every year;
Install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector on every floor, and near any areas where you use space heaters;
Stock up on bottled water and non-perishable food items like canned fruits and vegetables, cereal, and crackers;
Buy a multi-purpose, dry chemical fire extinguisher, and learn how to use it;
Create an emergency supply kit containing a battery-powered radio, a wind-up or battery-powered clock, extra batteries, flashlights, matches, and candles.
Brewster also cautions, “If it’s too cold for you outside, it’s probably too cold for your pet.” Bringing your pet into the house is best, but if that is not an option, be sure to provide warm, dry shelter that is away from drafts, extra food for the extra energy needed to stay warm, and fresh water.
For more information about cold weather safety and information on local sheltering, visit the Wicomico County Health Department’s website at www.wicomicohealth.org, our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter @WicomicoHealth.