Our recent run of frigid temperatures along with the ice and snow inspired me to write this article about winter weather safety. Winter safety depends on a few factors. These factors include your age, the weather conditions outside and where you are located. And please do not lay on top of your roof like the guy on the Allstate commercial to see if you'll fall through. You'd freeze to death before hand or people will think you're super weird.
For those of us with little ones we have a different set of safety concerns than an elderly person would. The American Academy of Pediatrics has some great guidelines for keeping children safe and warm during the cold weather months. I thought I'd highlight a few of them for you.
What to Wear
Dress infants and children warmly for outdoor activities. Several thin layers will keep them dry and warm. Don't forget warm boots, gloves or mittens, and a hat.
The rule of thumb for older babies and young children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.
Blankets, quilts, pillows, bumpers, sheepskins and other loose bedding may contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and should be kept out of an infant's sleeping environment. Sleep clothing like one-piece sleepers or wearable blankets is preferred.
If a blanket must be used to keep a sleeping infant warm, it should be tucked in around the crib mattress, reaching only as far as your baby's chest, so the infant's face is less likely to become covered by bedding materials.
Hypothermia develops when a child's temperature falls below normal due to exposure to colder temperatures. It often happens when a youngster is playing outdoors in extremely cold weather without wearing proper clothing or when clothes get wet. It can occur more quickly in children than in adults.
Make sure that your children have a hat and gloves or mittens on when they go out to play. There are so many cute hat and glove sets out there even the most fashionista little girl or tough and rumble little boy can find a set they like. Also sites like Etsy offer cute handmade hat and glove sets if you are looking for something that is "custom-made". If you would like to try your hand at either knitting or crocheting a set you can probably find a pattern on the internet.
As hypothermia sets in, the child may shiver and become lethargic and clumsy. Speech may become slurred and body If you suspect your child is hypothermic, call 911 at once. Until help arrives, take the child indoors, remove any wet clothing, and wrap him in blankets or warm clothes.
Frostbite happens when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. This condition tends to happen on extremities like the fingers, toes, ears and nose. They may become pale, gray and blistered. At the same time, the child may complain that his/her skin burns or has become numb.
If frostbite occurs, bring the child indoors and place the frostbitten parts of her body in warm (not hot) water. 104° Fahrenheit (about the temperature of most hot tubs) is recommended. Warm washcloths may be applied to frostbitten nose, ears and lips.
Do not rub the frozen areas.
After a few minutes, dry and cover the child with clothing or blankets. Give him/her something warm to drink like warm tea, warm hot chocolate or warm milk (especially good with nutmeg, a little sugar and vanilla extract).
If the numbness continues for more than a few minutes, call your doctor.
If your child suffers from winter nosebleeds, try using a cold air humidifier in the child's room at night. Saline nose drops or petrolatum may help keep nasal tissues moist. If bleeding is severe or recurrent, consult your pediatrician.
Many pediatricians feel that bathing two or three times a week is enough for an infant's first year. More frequent baths may dry out the skin, especially during the winter.You can also add a bath product that contain colloldial oatmeal like Aveeno, Nature's Gate and store brands like Walgreens, CVS, Duane Reade etc
Cold weather does not cause colds or flu. But the viruses that cause colds and flu tend to be more common in the winter, when children are in school and are in closer contact with each other. Frequent hand washing and teaching your child to sneeze or cough into the bend of her elbow may help reduce the spread of colds and flu.
Children 6 months of age and up should get the influenza vaccine to reduce their risk of catching the flu
The sun's rays can still cause sunburn in the winter, especially when they reflect off snow. Make sure to cover your child's exposed skin with sunscreen. Zinc oxide is great for covering little noses and if you can find the colored zinc like the surfers use the kids might be more willing to let you apply it.
Winter is a time when household fires occur. It is a good time to remember to:
Buy and install smoke alarms on every floor of your home
Test smoke alarms monthly
Practice fire drills with your children
Install a carbon monoxide detector outside bedrooms
The elderly also have a special set of need during the winter. They too need help sometimes even more so since a lot more elderly people are living alone. Some tips for helping your elderly friends and family members during the winter:
Winter Safety Tips for the Elderly
Check daily on elderly friends, relatives and neighbors who live alone.Some communities have Senior-In Home Visits or Elder-Check call-ins. These services check on the elderly and make sure they are okay.Your local area on aging should be able to direct you.
The elderly and very young should stay indoors as much as possible. Offer to shop for elderly friends and relatives. Just like in the summer with heat, it takes some time to get acclimated to cold weather.
Wear layered clothing outdoors for better protection from the cold. Wear a cap to prevent rapid heat loss from an uncovered head. Cover exposed skin to prevent frostbite.
While indoors, try to keep at least one room heated to 70 degrees.This is especially important for the elderly and small children to prevent hypothermia.
Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages.
Eat high energy foods along with warm beverages and soup.
Sleep warm with extra blankets,a warm cap, socks and layered clothing.
Keep ahead of advancing winter weather by listening to NOAA WeatherRadio.
An ice storm will take down power lines,knocking out electricity. Check battery powered equipment before the storm arrives.
Check your food and stock an extra supply.If there are infants at home, make sure you have enough infant formula or baby food. Include food that requires no cooking in case of power failure. Make
sure pets and animals have shelter and a water supply.
Check your heating supply.Be careful when using fireplaces, stoves or space heaters. Proper ventilation is essential. Don't use charcoal; it gives off deadly amounts of carbon monoxide. Keep flammable material away from space heaters and do not overload electric circuits.
Dress for the conditions when outdoors. Wear several layers of light-weight,warm clothing; layers can be removed to prevent perspiring and subsequent chill.
Outer garments should be tightly woven, waterproof and hooded. For the hands,mittens, snug at the wrists, offer better protection than fingered gloves
Our vehicles also need special winter care. So here are a few tips to keep your car winter ready:
Car Care Tips for Winter
Check the battery, lights, antifreeze, heater/defroster, belts, hoses, filters, oil, wipers and brakes.
Carry the basics-an ice scraper, a snowbrush, a small shovel, tow chains and jumper cables-in your car.
Also add a winter survival kit with items such flashlight with extra batteries,battery powered radio, snack food including energy bars, extra hats, socks and mittens etc. has a great web page that tell you what else you'll need for winter driving.
Add chains to your tires if necessary.
If for some reason you get stranded do not leave your vehicle and try to walk to safety! If you are able to call 911 and let them know that you are stranded. Some additional tips include:
Stay in your vehicle.
If you have a cell phone, call the police for help, but be careful not to run down your battery if you can't get through.(I know I said it just a few lines ago but I want everyone to be safe)
If you have an emergency kit, use supplies conservatively.
Attach something to your antenna or window, and leave your dome light on at night to alert emergency personnel.(I would recommend a bright colored scarf or cloth in a color like shocking pink or lime green. Something that people can see easily. No white or black)
Check your tailpipe occasionally to make sure it's not blocked with snow. Clean the pipe out if necessary to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Run the heater for about 10 minutes every hour, depending on how much fuel you have. Also keep a space blanket and a few blankets use them to keep warm
Leave a window cracked to let in air, and also to prevent the car from becoming sealed from heavy ice and snow.
Don't sleep if you can help it, especially if the engine is running and you are alone.
Move your arms and legs periodically to keep your circulation going.
Winterizing your home is just as important and here are a few tips to help you do just that:
Winterizing Tips for Homeowners
Clean those gutters. Once the leaves fall, remove them and other debris from your home's gutters -- by hand, by scraper or spatula, and finally by a good hose rinse -- so that winter's rain and melting snow can drain..
Block those leaks.One of the best ways to winterize your home is to simply block obvious leaks around your house, both inside and out,
First, find the leaks: On a breezy day, walk around inside holding a lit incense stick to the most common drafty areas: recessed lighting, window and door frames, electrical outlets.
Buy door sweeps or draft dodgers to close spaces under exterior doors, and caulk or apply tacky rope caulk Outlet gaskets can easily be installed in electrical outlets that share a home's outer walls, where cold air often enters.
Outdoors, seal leaks with weather-resistant caulk. For brick areas, use masonry sealer, which will better stand up to freezing and thawing
Insulate yourself.Check your attic and see if you have the proper amount of insulation for where you live. Your local home improvement store like Home Dept should be able to help yopu with this.
Check the furnace First, turn your furnace on now, to make sure it's even working, before the coldest weather descends. A strong, odd, short-lasting smell is natural when firing up the furnace in the autumn; simply open windows to dissipate it. But if the smell lasts a long time, shut down the furnace and call a professional.(It's a good idea to have furnaces cleaned and tuned annually. Costs will often run about $100-$125.)
Get your ducts in a row.According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose up to 60% of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well-connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces. That's a huge amount of wasted money, not to mention a chilly house. (Check out this audit tool for other ideas on how to save on your energy bills this winter.
Ducts aren't always easy to see, but you can often find them exposed in the attic, the basement and crawlspaces. Repair places where pipes are pinched, which impedes flow of heated air to the house, and fix gaps with a metal-backed tape (duct tape actually doesn't stand up to the job over time).
Ducts also should be vacuumed once every few years, to clean out the abundant dust, animal hair and other gunk that can gather in them and cause respiratory problems.
Face your windows. Now, of course, is the time to take down the window screens and put up storm windows, which provide an extra layer of protection and warmth for the home. Storm windows are particularly helpful if you have old, single-pane glass windows.
Budget to replace them a few at a time, and in the meantime, buy a window insulator kit, Basically, the kit is plastic sheeting that's affixed to a window's interior with double-stick tape.
Don't forget the chimney. Ideally, spring is the time to think about your chimney.Don't put off your chimney needs before using your fireplace, A common myth is that a chimney needs to be swept every year, But a chimney needs at least be inspected before use each year. Bird nests, the occasional oddball item like a tennis ball can cause trouble if not taken care of
Ask for a Level 1 inspection, in which the professional examines the readily accessible portions of the chimney.
Woodstoves are different.They should be swept more than once a year. A general rule of thumb is that a cleaning should be performed for every ¼ inch of creosote, anywhere that it's found. Ash is primarily lye -- the same stuff that was once used to make soap, and it's very acidic. It can cause mortar and the metal damper to rot,. Check out CSIA'S Web site for a list of certified chimney sweeps in your area.
Reverse that fan. Reversing your ceiling fan is a small tip that people don't often think of.By reversing its direction from the summer operation, the fan will push warm air downward and force it to recirculate, keeping you more comfortable. (Here's how you know the fan is ready for winter: As you look up, the blades should be turning clockwise)
Wrap those pipes. A burst pipe caused by a winter freeze is a nightmare. Prevent it before Jack Frost sets his grip: Before freezing nights hit, make certain that the water to your hose bibs is shut off inside your house (via a turnoff valve), and that the lines are drained Next, go looking for other pipes that aren't insulated, or that pass through unheated spaces -- pipes that run through crawlspaces, basements or garages. Wrap them with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation, available at hardware stores. If you're really worried about a pipe freezing, you can first wrap it with heating tape, which is basically an electrical cord that emits heat.
Check those alarms. This is a great time to check the operation -- and change the batteries -- on your home's smoke detectors. Detectors should be replaced every 10 years, fire officials say. Test them -- older ones in particular -- with a small bit of actual smoke, and not just by pressing the "test" button. Check to see that your fire extinguisher is still where it should be, and still works. Also, invest in a carbon-monoxide detector; every home should have at least one.
I hope these tips will help everyone have a safe and enjoyable winter.