by Kimberly Allen, RN
Winter can be a great time of year. In addition to the many different things you can do like sledding, snowball fights and skating, there’s also the many holidays, time spent with family cooking, sitting in front of a fire and playing games both inside and out. But winter also brings with it some level of risk to health and safety.
When it comes to winter safety, there is more to it than just than preventing hypothermia and frostbite. According to the CDC, fires in the home are much more prevalent during the winter than any other time of the year, and cooking is the leading cause of all home fires during the winter. However, cooking is not the only cause of home fires. The use of fireplaces and candles, as well as space heaters, also contribute to the increased number of home fires during the winter.
There are also significantly more fatal crashes during winter as well as an increase in head injuries seen in emergency rooms across the country from participating in winter sports like snowboarding, skiing and sledding to mane a few. Also, the CDC reports that January is the worst month for carbon monoxide poisoning with December coming in second.
With winter comes the snow storms or blizzards and people that have lived in northern climates (especially where snow is a normal part of the landscape) know that preparation before the storm is crucial to surviving the storm. The two most important areas to prepare for winter are your home and your car. As many people familiar with winter understand that it is very unpredictable , they know there are things you can do to be safe and ready in both your home and car. If you are like many people and are burning wood or have the ability to burn wood in case of an emergency have your chimney cleaned and your flue checked every year before the first snow fall if possible. Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors should be in every home especially if you’ll be using any type of wood, gas or kerosene heaters. There are numerous products available to help you safely weather proof your home. While winter proofing your home, it is important to remember to insulate all water pipes, especially those that run along the outside walls. I can tell you it’s no fun to have frozen water pipes in the middle of winter, let alone having one burst from freezing. It’s always a good idea to have a thermometer outside that you can easily read from inside.
Preparing your car for winter can save you alot of potentially dangerous problems that you can encounter during the cold winter months. Always get a full service maintenance visit for your vehicle in the fall. The radiator will need antifreeze and the windshield wiper fluid will need to be changed to a cold weather blend. The tires will need to have a deeper tread and the air pressure monitored. It’s also important to keep the gas tank as close to full as possible to prevent moisture from developing allowing ice to form in the tank and/or gas line. Never let your vehicle sit with less than 1/4 tank of gas in the winter or you run the risk of having a significant amount of ice in your tank. Always be sure your wipers are in good working condition as well as your brakes and emergency lights. The heater and windshield defroster also need to be in good working order. It’s also a good idea to carry a winter safety kit that includes blankets and flashlights, a battery operated radio and extra batteries, a shovel along with chains and/or rope and booster cables, sand and/or road salt also come in handy. If you plan to travel far from home add some snacks and water proof matches so you can start a fire if you get stranded. These are items that should be added to your all season kit that should have a first aide and tool kit as well as maps and a compass.
Winter can be a great time especially if you’re prepared, always listen to the weather forecast for any potential storms that can either cause power outages or leave you stranded in feet not inches of new snow, as you’ll want to stock up on food, water and batteries to name a few.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.