Keep mindful in the cold

Shannon Hurst talks about the cold weather in this week's My Town.

Well it took almost two months for the cold weather to arrive but with the Arctic Outflow warnings and temperatures it’s safe to say the North is officially in the deep freeze.

While many of us are no strangers to northern living in the -20Cs, it’s always good to have a checklist and some extra information for the “just in case” scenarios.

First, lets start at the beginning with the littlest people, babies.  Infants less than a year old should never sleep in a cold room (below 18C) because they lose body heat far more easily than adults. Unlike adults, babies are unable to make body heat by shivering which makes them far more vulnerable to the cold.

The World Health Organization actually puts out a ton of recommendations about cold weather including keeping indoor temperatures between 18 and 22 Celsius for healthy people.  Below that not only are children at risk, but the elderly, or people with health problems too.

Many of us are also aware to watch out for signs of hypothermia. Early signs of hypothermia in adults include shivering, confusion, memory loss, drowsiness, exhaustion and slurred speech. Infants who are suffering from hypothermia may appear to have very low energy and bright red, cold skin.

In addition to cold temperatures, the winds can also play a factor in increasing health problems. Be sure the outer layer of clothing is tightly woven to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind. If you are spending time outside this week, do not ignore shivering — it is an important first sign that the body is losing heat and a signal to quickly return indoors.

Since cold weather puts an extra burden on the heart, if you have cardiac problems or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s orders about shoveling or performing any strenuous exercise outside. Even otherwise-healthy adults should remember that their bodies already are working overtime just to stay warm, and dress appropriately and work slowly when doing heavy outdoor chores.

When it comes to frostbite, many don’t realize it takes as little as ten minutes to get it and you may not feel it right away so keep an eye on everyone around you when they are outside and keep those body parts and faces well bundled up and protected.

In addition to keeping our bodies warm and in good health the cold weather is a time when heating your home becomes a danger too with levels of carbon monoxide increasing. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu but do not include a fever. At low levels of exposure, one may experience a headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Many years ago a firefighter suggested using a carbon monoxide detector which can be bought in hardware stores and I have one on ever since.

Another household issue is water; it’s a good idea to keep the water running even at a slow trickle to reduce the chance of pipes freezing. If you do freeze your water lines, be smart and be safe when attempting to thaw them out.

With the high winds this week it’s also a great idea to have your emergency kits ready to go in your house incase there is a power outage as well as in your vehicle. If you have been putting off stocking up on candles, blankets and other supplies in both your home and car, don’t delay, do it today.

Finally, I wanted to remind pet owners that your animals may have fur but  that doesn’t mean they won’t freeze. Be kind to your furry friends and make sure they too are warm and dry with lots of food and water several times a day if they are outside.