Cold is called a “deceptive killer”
by The National Weather Service because most deaths in winter aren’t due to the weather itself. Instead, they’re due to the side effects of cold—especially extreme cold. On average, deaths related to cold constitute about ten percent of all weather-related fatalities and twenty percent of all weather-related injuries. Add to that the fact that cold days are getting colder,
and there's plenty of cause for concern. This might be why the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is going to great lengths to warn people
to be prepared for cold weather before it strikes. Here are four of the most deceptive cold-weather dangers that you and your family need to know about:
- Heart failure.
This one might surprise you. A recent study
found that there’s an association between the quantity and duration of snowfall and heart attacks. According to the research, in many regions in North America, heavy snowfall seems to correlate with an increase in reported cardiac arrest. According to the Harvard Education Blog: The deeper the snow, the more men were admitted for heart attacks. For example, for snowfalls of more than eight inches, there was a 16% increase in hospital admissions compared to days with no snow. The deeper the snow, the more men died of heart attacks. A 34% increase was observed the day after an eight-inch snowfall, and higher rates were noted when even more snow fell. Similar observations were made for the duration of snowfall. The longer it snowed, the higher the rates of heart attack and related deaths among men.
Though researchers aren’t quite sure of the causes, it’s likely that a few factors are combining here and snow shoveling seems to be the main culprit. Shoveling snow can raise your heart rate
more quickly than most other domestic activities and the cold weather may cause blood vessels to restrict. It's a potentially deadly combination.
- Traffic accidents on icy roads
California and Florida notwithstanding, the vast majority of Americans (roughly 70 percent) live in snowy, cold-weather regions. It’s no surprise then, that there are 156,164 crashes annually due to icy roads. About twenty-five percent of those are people caught out in the storm and the majority are males over forty years old. The most important statistic, though, is that 1,836 people die those crashes. While technology is making driving safer every year
, carmakers have yet to come up with a sufficiently impactful solution for preventing accidents caused by ice and slush. Preparing for winter driving
is as important as changing the oil and rotating tires.
- Hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold.
In the age of forced heating and air, death from exposure may sound anachronistic, but there are still an alarming number of cases in the US. In fact, cold-weather deaths outnumber heat-related deaths almost every year. In 2015, the highest death toll in recent times occurred when more than 800 people died from hypothermia. This is probably because the human body adapts slightly better to heat than cold. With heat, there’s a threshold at which the body can no longer endure, but before you hit it, you can function relatively well. That threshold doesn’t exist with cold. As temperatures drop and you continue to get colder, your body has increasingly more trouble functioning, making it hard to adapt. Looking at the signs of hypothermia
—shivering, slurred speech, confusion, lack of coordinate, etc.—it’s easy to see why the condition quickly becomes dangerous. There are other factors contributing to the growing cases of hypothermia. The booming population of people 60 plus is one. Of injuries strictly related to exposure to cold, 50% are in that age range or older. Another factor is socioeconomic. Poorer households are less likely to have access to heating and insulation.
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
As temperatures drop, we spend more time indoors and more time cranking up the heat. That means, of course, increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The colorless, odorless gas is most commonly emitted by gas space heaters, furnaces and chimneys, gas stoves, gas generators, and car exhaust. If any of these are present in your home, you’re at risk. That’s why each year, carbon monoxide poising is responsible for more the 50,000 ER visits and more than 400 deaths. And again, Americans older than 65 experience the highest fatality rate. As that population booms, carbon monoxide deaths are expected to as well. Start Preparing for Cold Weather Today
Given that winter storms can trap us inside our homes, it’s wise to have enough food, water and basic supplies on hand. Emergency Essentials 2-Week Survival in a Pail
kit provides 14 days worth of nourishment and warmth to help keep you safe and healthy.