January 22nd marked the arrival of Winter Storm Jonas, a blizzard that halted traffic all along the I-95 corridor, effectively shutting down New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. The official death toll now stands at 28, with each death resulting from either car collisions, hypothermia or injuries sustained shoveling snow. While weather of this magnitude goes far beyond our control, we can at least minimize the risk of these winter hazards by following these simple steps.
Avoid Hypothermia by Dressing Warmly
Hypothermia is a condition in which the body’s temperature plummets to a dangerously low temperature, which often leads to death. What’s perhaps most frightening about hypothermia is that it negatively affects the brain, impairing judgement during a life-threatening crisis. In some cases, people even begin taking their clothes off, as their brains have misled them into thinking they’re actually too warm. This is the worst thing to do, as dressing warmly is the most effective way to combat hypothermia.
This step may seem a bit obvious, but dressing appropriately for sub-zero temperatures may not be as easy as we think. For instances, mittens are a warmer option than gloves. Mittens are also much better at holding hand warmers, which are great at generating heat in cold places. Different clothing materials are warmer than others, too. While cotton may be the comfiest, it’s not nearly as warm as wool, silk or polypropylene layers, which make great undergarments.
It’s also important to stay dry, as people can even catch hypothermia in temperatures higher than 45°, if they’ve gotten drenched in water.
Avoid Falling by Wearing Appropriate Footwear and Recognizing Black Ice
Wearing winter boots is a necessity for everyone during winter storms. Most winter boots will keep you warm, but there are many that don’t offer anti-slip soles. If you use a cane, make sure your cane has a rubber tip that has not yet worn off. You can also pick up an attachment for your cane that is shaped into an ice pick.
In order to avoid walking on black ice, make sure to walk on sidewalks that have already been cleared away. Safe sidewalks often have an ivory-colored wash to it, resulting from the anti-freeze salting materials. Newer pavements have a darker shade to it, which makes black ice blend in easier. Be careful walking on these surfaces, especially at nighttime.
Practice Proper Shoveling Techniques and Stay Hydrated While Shoveling
People struggle to effectively monitor their hydration levels during the winter. Throughout the summer, the warm weather induces sweating and raises the body’s temperature. These bodily reactions serve as obvious reminders for us to drink water. But during the winter, it’s simply not as easy for our bodies to recognize when it needs hydration, since they’re simultaneously trying to cope with the cold weather. Our bodies fail to recognize just how dry the air is during the winter, leading to multiple fatalities each year from people dying of dehydration while shoveling snow.
It’s also necessary to make sure you’re shoveling in safe areas and practicing proper form. It’s easy to fall over or sprain a muscle when overexerting yourself. Make sure to pace yourself while shoveling and drink plenty of water.
If you need treatment for any non-life-threatening winter-related injury or illness, visit us at AFC Urgent Care Dedham anytime during business hours on a walk-in basis. We can also help monitor and treat severe dehydration. To speak with one of our medical professionals, call us at 781.461.0200.
We look forward to helping get you through the 2016 Winter!