News | Published January 7, 2014 | Written by Lester Griel, CRNP, internal medicine, Mount Nittany Physician Group

Stay safe, healthy during unusually cold weather

With temperatures forecasted in the single digits and wind-chill factors well below zero, it’s important to take a few extra minutes to prepare for this abnormally cold weather.

To begin, dressing in layers is especially crucial. Minimize time spent outdoors, but if you must go outside, make certain that all exposed skin is covered. In addition to multiple layers, a warm hat, gloves, winter coat, scarf and boots are key.

Severe cold and strong winds are of particular concern to young children and the elderly population, as these age groups are more susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia.

Frostbite may occur to tissue or skin when blood circulation is limited to certain body parts such as fingers, toes, nose and ears due to excessively cold weather. Hypothermia may occur when one’s overall body temperature decreases to the point necessary for adequate blood flow and body function. Signs of hypothermia include excessive shivering, lack of coordination, slurred speech, confusion, drowsiness, weak pulse, shallow breathing and lack of concern about the cold.

Pets are also of concern during these frigid temperatures. When taking dogs outdoors, a vest or coat is important as well as boots to cover their paws. During especially cold days, consider bringing outside pets indoors. Also remember not to leave pets unattended in vehicles.

A cold weather survival kit is also a good idea, specifically for your home and for your vehicle. Pack your vehicle kit with the following:

  • Warm blanket
  • First aid kit
  • Jumper cables
  • Ice scraper
  • Waterproof matches
  • Small, collapsible shovel
  • Flashlight with batteries
  • Dried food/granola bars
  • Water
  • Bag of sand or cat litter for tire traction

Also make sure your vehicle’s tire pressure is satisfactory, the battery is in good working order, and all fluid levels are properly filled.

At home, keep blankets, flashlights, food and water in a nearby area in case of a power outage. You should also make sure smoke detector batteries are functional, as accidental fires may occur during power outages due to unattended candles.

In addition, anyone with a fireplace or those who use a kerosene-style heater should have a functional carbon monoxide detector. And remember, during prolonged power outages, it is never acceptable to run a portable generator inside the home or in a garage or similar structure that is attached to the home.