By Andy Klein
There’s snow on the ground and in the trees. It is 30 degrees outside, and that is 10 degrees warmer than it was earlier. The wind makes the “feels like” temperature even colder. Weather like this can be very uncomfortable, even deadly. In the spirit of the Red Cross mission of preventing and alleviating human suffering, here are some tips for staying safe and warm outside and inside your home.
Staying Warm Inside Your House
Being in a very cold house can lead to hypothermia. When the temperature falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (F) there is a clear risk for your internal body temperature to drop below 95 degrees and hypothermia and frostbite to occur according to the National Institute on Aging
Here are some tips for keeping warm while you're inside your home:
- Set heat to at least 68–70°F. To save on heating bills, close off rooms you are not using. Close the vents and shut the doors in these rooms.
- Make sure your house isn't losing heat through windows. Keep your blinds and curtains closed.
- Dress warmly on cold days even if you are staying in the house. Throw a blanket over your legs. Wear socks and slippers. Wear a knit hat.
- When you go to sleep, wear long underwear under your pajamas, and use extra covers. Wear a knit cap.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcoholic drinks make you lose body heat.
- If a power outage leaves you without heat, try to stay with a relative or friend.
You may be tempted to warm your room with a space heater. However, some space heaters are fire hazards, and others can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has information on the use of space heaters. Some space heater safety tips include:
- Place space heaters on a solid, flat surface.
- Keep heater at least three feet from things that can burn.
- Check the heater for cracked or damaged cords or plugs.
- Plug heater directly into wall outlets, not extension cords or power strips.
- Make sure the heater has an automatic shut-off, so if it tips over, it shuts off.
- Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
Staying Warm Outside
Check the weather forecast for windy and cold days. Windchill is the combined cooling effect of wind and temperature. Frostbite is the freezing of skin and the body tissue just beneath it. Hypothermia is a dangerously low body temperature and is the most common winter weather killer. On cold days, try to stay inside or in a warm place. Surprisingly, hypothermia can occur at any temperature lower than normal body temperature (98.6F). Factors like body fat, age, alcohol consumption, and especially wetness can affect how long hypothermia takes to strike. In general, when the wind chill is 32° and above, it's safe to be outside. In temperatures 13° to 31°, you should take indoor breaks every 20-30 minutes. For wind chills of 13° and below, move activities indoors as frostbite can quickly set in. How Cold Is Too Cold to Go Outside?
If you must go out, wear warm clothes, and limit your time out in the wind and cold. If you fall into water, the situation becomes drastically more dangerous. Cold Water Hazards and Safety.
Dress for the weather
- Stay dry. Wet clothing results in much faster heat loss from your body. Wear waterproof insulated boots.
- Stay covered. Wear mittens or gloves, and a hat. At least half of your body heat is lost if your head is not covered.
- Dress layered. Trapped air between loose fitting clothing helps to insulate.
- Stay informed. Have a weather radio nearby to stay up-to-date with the latest forecasts and warnings. Use wind chill temperatures to guide you in dressing properly for the outdoors. On very cold days, minimize your exposure to the outdoors if possible.
Oh, these cold weather cautions apply to your pets, too!