Every year, people complain that it's never been colder.
And every year, the cold leaves someone injured, or worse. But this year, there's something you can do about it if you follow a little good advice.
There are big health risks when the temperature dips -- risks to infants, the elderly, travelers, sportsmen, and pets. For tips on staying warm, talk to the people who work outside -- doormen, utility workers, farmers, and police officers.
And listen to those familiar with colder climates. A Northern friend, for example, recommends showering in the morning to preserve body heat in the cooler nighttime hours. Public health officials in the windy city of Chicago -- where the temps regularly not into single digits and wind chills hit 20 or 30 below zero -- give WebMD readers a few more survival tips.
Frostbite No. John Wilhelm, Chicago's commissioner of public health. Wind chill, wet clothing, alcohol consumption, poor circulation, weariness, and some medications atlk make people more vulnerable to frostbite. Symptoms include tingling sensations on your nose, ears, toes, and fingers as well as red skin early stagewhitened skin middle stagehard skin severeblisters, and blackened tissue severe, gangrenous stage.
If you do get frostbitten, warm the skin gradually, Wilhelm tells WebMD.
The most important thing is not to rub the traumatized skin. You can create more damage. The possible result: coma and death.
Wearing wet clothing or being immersed in cold water for any length of time heightens that risk. s of hypothermia are slurred speech, slow pulse, loss of coordination, loss of bladder control, stiff muscles, a puffy face, and Col confusion. If you suspect hypothermia, call immediately. To ward off frostbite and hypothermia: Wear layers of warm, dry clothing, including hat and gloves. And as you become more active, you can remove a layer.
Sock liners that keep moisture away from feet also help keep feet warm. Wear mittens, not gloves, to keep hands warm. And Colc forget your legs. It's much better to have a few layers on as much of the body surface as possible. Home Safety Home heating devices and carbon monoxide poisoning are other wintertime worries.
If you keep them at least a foot away from draperies or flammable things, they're OK. But we don't encourage using them. It is odorless and highly toxic, and it can either poison you quickly or build up in your blood gradually, causing headaches, nausea, even coma and death. Don't use a gas oven if the heat goes out.
Gas ovens may go out or not burn efficiently, leading to carbon monoxide poisoning. When buying a kerosene heater, make sure it has a low center of gravity to make accidental tipovers unlikely. Carefully read and follow all safety directions, including keeping small children away from the heater and instructing them not to touch the controls.
Since kerosene heaters have an open flame, do not use flammable solvents or sprays in the same room. Never leave a heater on when unattended. To prevent buildup of carbon monoxide inside your home, have your furnace and heating appliances checked every year. Never operate grills or motor vehicles in garages or carports. Do not use your dryer or oven as a heating source.
Move items away from your furnace. Install a carbon monoxide detector or check an already-existing detector.
Other cold-weather survival tips: Don't shovel your own sidewalks and driveway unless you're physically fit. Make sure someone knows your route and prepare for the worst possible conditions. Carry a first aid kit. Talk to your pharmacist about the effects of freezing temperatures on medications. Bring a sleeping bag rated for cold-weather camping. A snack of trail mix -- nuts, seeds, dried fruits -- or candy and a jug of water or thermos of a nonalcoholic drink like hot chocolate or soup can help maintain body temperature.
Ohtside living outdoors need special care.
An animal that is accustomed to being outside will handle cold temperatures better than one that is not. However, outdoor animals outsiide dry bedding and a shelter that is large enough to stand, sit, turn around, and lie down in -- but not so large that body heat is lost.
Giving outdoor animals extra food during cold temperatures will help them cope better. Look in on elderly neighbors. If you know someone is alone, check on them.