Tips for enjoying a safe and healthy winter

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Winter can be a beautiful time of year, when snow blankets the ground and sparkles on tree branches. But the season can also be dangerous if you’re not prepared.

Winter storms can increase the risk of car accidents, hypothermia and heart attacks from overexertion, but with proper planning, you can stay safe and healthy this season.

Weather Protection
Be sure to keep an eye on the weather, and know the forecast before you travel to work, school or a visit with family and friends. An emergency supply kit in your vehicle, which includes jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water, and non-perishable snacks, can help if you find yourself stranded on the side of the road. Be sure to keep a full tank of gas in your car, in case you need to keep it running for a while to stay warm.

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It’s also important to know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Someone with frostbite may feel numbness and have white or grayish-yellow skin that may also feel firm or appear waxy. If someone is showing signs of frostbite, get them to a warm room as soon as possible. Soak them in warm water, use body heat to warm, but do not massage or use a heating pad to try and warm the person up.

A body temperature below 95 F (35 C) is hypothermic, and the person may be shivering, exhausted, confused and drowsy. A person with hypothermia may also have slurred speech and memory loss. If possible, get the person to a warm room and try to warm the center of the body first. Keep them dry and wrapped in warm blankets, including their head and neck.

To reduce the risk of a heart attack this winter, try to avoid overexertion with shoveling or walking in the snow. It’s OK to take plenty of breaks when shoveling.

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COVID-19 Safety
The fall and winter holidays also bring more opportunities to gather with family and friends. Since many of those gatherings will be indoors, it’s important to take precautions against viruses like COVID-19 and influenza. You can wear a mask, wash your hands often with soap and water, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and have disinfecting wipes on hand to use on high-touch surfaces.

“This time of year, we want to be closer to our loved ones. We can’t forget we’re still in a pandemic though and need to take precautions to protect one another. And remember, if you’re not feeling well, stay home, so you don’t risk spreading COVID-19 or the flu,” said Angela Kik, RN, nurse consultant with the Kentucky Department for Public Health, Preparedness Branch.

While being cautious around others will help stop the spread of viruses, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and influenza is your best line of defense.

Home Emergency Kits
Weatherizing your house can help you stay warm and prevent pipes from freezing. You can also prepare in advance for an ice storm or other disaster. Make sure to have at minimum a three-day supply of food and water for each member of your family, including pets. Your kit should include:

  • Clean water stored in food-grade containers
  • Canned meats, fruits, vegetables
  • Crackers, protein and fruit bars
  • Nonfat dried milk
  • Dry cereal, granola
  • Peanut butter
  • Dried fruit
  • Canned juices, soup
  • High-energy foods
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Continually use and replenish the food in your three-day supply to avoid spoilage. You also want to ensure you have supplies on hand such as a first-aid kit, radio, flashlight, can opener, cell phone charger, batteries, necessary medications, personal hygiene items and baby needs should you be home for several days with no power. Don’t forget to keep extra cash, emergency contacts and important papers in a dry, safe place.

Preparation is key to getting ahead of winter storms. Creating a plan, writing it down and practicing the plan can bring peace of mind in uncertain times. Whether you are planning for one person or an entire family, emergency preparedness can go a long way towards a safe and healthy New Year.

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