When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, staying warm and safe can become a challenge. Below are some health and safety tips that will help you and your family stay safe and warm during severe cold weather.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses; however, CO poisoning can cause loss of consciousness and death. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. To prevent CO poisoning:
• Never run a generator or other gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage or other enclosed room, even if the windows are open.
• Never use a charcoal grill, lantern or portable camping stove inside a home.
• Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
• Install at least one CO detector in your home and make sure batteries are checked at least twice a year.
People are at greater risk in the winter season for house fires when using unsafe heat sources. You can reduce your risk of a house fire by:
• Placing space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything that may catch fire, such as drapes, furniture, or bedding.
• Never leaving children unattended near a space heater.
• Not using extension cords to plug in your space heater.
• Never leaving lit candles unattended.
Whenever temperatures drop below normal and as wind speed increases, heat can leave your body more rapidly. These weather-related conditions may lead to serious health problems such as hypothermia. Extreme cold is a dangerous situation that can bring on health emergencies in those who are susceptible, such as people without shelter, people who are stranded, or people who live in a home that is poorly insulated or without heat.
The following tips can protect against cold-related illness:
• Babies less than one year old should never sleep in a cold room. Babies lose body heat more easily than adults. Provide warm clothing for babies and try to maintain a warm indoor temperature. If the temperature cannot be maintained, make arrangements to stay elsewhere. In an emergency, you can keep an infant warm using your own body heat. If you must sleep, take precautions to prevent rolling on the baby. Pillows and other soft bedding can also present a risk of smother; remove them from the area near the baby.
• Avoid remaining outdoors for long periods. Be sure to wear enough warm clothing such as a hat, gloves, coat and several layers of loose-fitting clothing.
• Older adults often make less body heat because of slower metabolism and less physical activity. If you are over 65 years old, check the temperature in your home often during severely cold weather.
• Check on elderly friends and neighbors frequently to ensure that their homes are adequately heated.
• Bring pets inside. If you cannot bring them inside, make sure they have warm shelter and unfrozen water to drink.