Exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoors or outdoors, can cause serious or life-threatening health problems. To keep yourself and your family safe, you should know how to prevent cold-related health problems.
What is extreme cold?
- Near freezing temperatures are considered “extreme cold”
- Whenever temperatures drop below normal and wind speed increases, heat can leave your body more rapidly. These weather-related conditions may lead to serious health problems.
Winter survival kit for your home:
- Food that needs no cooking or refrigeration, such as bread, crackers, cereal, canned foods,and dried fruits.
- Water stored in clean containers, or purchased bottled water.
- Medicines that any family member may need.
*If your area is prone to long periods of cold temperatures, or if your home is isolated, stock additional amounts of food, water, and medicine.
Emergency Supplies List:
- An alternate way to heat your home during a power failure (dry firewood, kerosene, furnace fuel)
- Multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher
- First aid kit and instruction manual
- Flashlight or battery-powered lantern
- Battery-powered radio
- Battery-powered clock or watch
- Extra batteries
- Non-electric can opener
- Snow shovel
- Rock salt
- Special needs items (diapers, hearing aid batteries, medications, etc.)
Prepare your home for winter:
- Winterize your home.
- Install weather stripping, insulation, and storm windows.
- Insulate water lines that run along exterior walls.
- Clean out gutters and repair roof leaks.
- Check your heating systems.
- Have your heating system serviced professionally to make sure that it is clean, working properly, and ventilated to the outside.
- Inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys.
- Install a smoke detector. Test batteries monthly and replace them twice a year.
- Have a safe alternate heating source and alternate fuels available.
- Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) emergencies.
- Install a CO detector to alert you of the presence of the deadly, odorless, colorless gas. Check batteries when you change your clocks in the fall and spring.
- Learn symptoms of CO poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.
Prepare your car for winter:
- Have maintenance service on your vehicle as often as the manufacturer recommends.
- Have the radiator system serviced, or check the antifreeze level yourself with an antifreeze tester. Add antifreeze, as needed.
- Replace windshield-wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
- Replace any worn tires, and check the air pressure in the tires.
- First aid kit
- Waterproof matches
- Windshield scraper
- Booster cables
- Tool kit
- Paper towels
- Bag of sand (to pour on ice or snow for added traction)
- Tire chains
- Collapsible shovel
- Container of water and high-calorie canned or dried foods
- Flashlight and extra batteries
Stay safe and healthy
- When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced
- Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy
- Low body temperature may make you unable to think clearly or move well
Who’s most at risk?:
- Older adults with inadequate food, clothing, or heating
- Babies sleeping in cold bedrooms
- People who remain outdoors for long periods—the homeless, hikers, hunters, etc.
- People who drink alcohol or use illicit drugs.
- Shivering, exhaustion
- Confusion, fumbling hands
- Memory loss, slurred speech
- Bright red, cold skin
*If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95° F, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.
- Frostbite is a bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and color in affected areas.
- It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes.
- Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation.
Who’s most at risk?:
- Have poor blood circulation
- Are not properly dressed for extremely cold temperatures
- Awhite or grayish-yellow skin area
- Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
*If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care.