Whether we love it or hate it, winter’s here, bringing skiing, skating, snowboarding, snowman building and . . . shoveling, slipping, sliding, shivering, sneezing, and sniffling! Preparation is the key to surviving—even enjoying—the coldest time of the year.
Update emergency kits
We know that our homes, yards, wardrobes, and vehicles all need winterizing—but let’s not forget about our emergency kits, as well. It’s time to change out summer clothing for winter in our bug-out-bags, and to be sure we have hand warmers, winter tools, kitty litter or sand, antifreeze, and more in our emergency car kits. See “Baby Steps: Time to Winterize Your Grab and Go Bag” for more suggestions.
Protect yourself against hypothermia
Other than avoiding winter car accidents and falls on ice, protecting ourselves and our families against hypothermia and frostbite is the main focus of winter safety. Hypothermia is a dangerous condition that can creep up on us, making people first shiver, then feel sleepy, confused unaware of their own danger , and apathetic, with difficulty thinking and making rational decisions.
A few basic tips protect against hypothermia:
• Avoid getting wet (whether from sweat, rain, snow, or dew)
• Make sure you are protected against wind chill
• Go back inside or to a fire to warm up from time to time
• Stop your activity before you reach an exhausted state
Check out our Insight article "First Aid for Hypothermia and Frostbite" to learn more about how to protect yourself from this cold related issue.
Protect yourself against Sickness
Colds, the flu, and coughs are more prevalent in the winter. With an increase in illness at this time of year, it’s important to be sure we’re taking the proper steps to avoid getting sick.
Eat your fruits and veggies. While some fresh fruits and vegetables may not be as readily available in winter as they are in summer, you can stock up on freeze dried varieties that you’ll love and will give you some of the nutrition you’ll need. Eat lots of green or yellow produce in the winter. Think pumpkin, winter squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and dark green, leafy veggies like kale and spinach.
Thankfully, winter is citrus season, so enjoy those tangerines, oranges, and grapefruits. They’re full of Vitamin C, bioflavonoids, and other nutrients that help to keep us healthy.
Fight off Germs. Remember to wash your hands often with soap and good, warm water; sneeze or cough into a tissue or your elbow, not your bare hands or (heaven forbid!) the air around you! Germs are one thing you need to be selfish about keeping to yourself.
Many germs can be transferred from up to 6 feet away. Even the tiniest droplet of moisture from a person with a cold or the flu can land in your mouth or nose, or be inhaled into your lungs when they cough, sneeze, or even speak. Try to stay away from those who are ill; if you’re ill, stay home.
Germs can also be transferred from touching a surface or object that has the virus on it. Clean doorknobs, toys, and other frequently touched surfaces regularly.
Dressing in layers gives the best protection against very cold weather. Here are a few tips for layering your clothes properly:
- First have a thin layer of “wicking” fabric such as Under Armour™ that pulls moisture away from your skin.
- Follow that with a warm layer such as a heavy shirt, jeans or insulated pants, and a sweater or jacket.
- Top it all off with a reflective or waterproof layer.
- Add appropriate gloves and footwear, including warm socks (wool socks are great) and perhaps face protection such as a ski mask in extreme conditions to protect your face from frostbite.
Check out our Insight articles "Staying Warm in the Outdoors", "Emergency Warmth", and our blog post, "Winter Camping (and Other Signs of Insanity)" for more great tips on layering up.
Learn to build a fire
If you find yourself stranded outdoors in the cold for any length of time, your survival (and comfort) may depend on whether you can build—and maintain—a successful fire. Read "How to Build a Fire" and take the time to practice. (Believe me, these are techniques to know! Read the comments at the end, too.)
Learn to build a shelter
If you should ever have to construct a temporary shelter for yourself, you’ll appreciate knowing the information contained in our "Emergency Shelter" and Shelter and Temperature Control in an Emergency articles.
Keep extra help on hand
Marvelous aids such as hand and body warmers are also important, especially if you’re going to be outdoors for an extended period of time. Always keep some in your car, purse, or coat pocket so you’ll have them wherever you go.
Be wise and prepare. Then if Jack Frost reaches his icy fingers for you, you’ll know how to defend yourself against him!