Take precautions against the winter cold

Published 12:27 pm Monday, January 1, 2018

Winter can be the most dangerous time of the year especially on bone-chilling days and nights when the temperature falls below freezing and stays there for days. Much of the nation is now in a deep freeze with sub-freezing temperatures and snow.
Some pointers to take from the American Red Cross if you are venturing out in the cold this weekend could help you stay warm. First, dress in layers. Layers of loosefitting clothing trap the body’s natural warmth, and do it best with an insulating inner layer and an outer layer resistant to wind and water. The less body area exposed, the warmer you’ll be. If your clothing gets wet, it loses much if not most of its protection, carrying heat away from the body instead of keeping it in. The warmest down-filled garment is ineffective when wet.
Protect the extremities.
Hats that cover the ears (or earmuffs) are vital because the head has little insulation against the cold. Scarves keep the neck and chest warm and can be used to protect the face against wind. Mittens keep hands warmer than gloves, especially if they are fur-lined or heated with rechargeable batteries.
For cold feet, there are lined waterproof boots rated by temperature, as well as battery-heated socks and insoles. Ugg boots are very toasty but many models are not waterproof, and some find them too warm to wear indoors. Slip-resistant soles or cleats can help keep you upright on icy pavement.
Hopefully, you have prepared your home for winter by reducing drafts and insulating the roof, walls, window sashes and door frames. Keep your thermostat set at a comfortable temperature during the day — between 68 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit (72 degrees on average), depending on the age and health of the occupants. Keep in mind that babies and older adults are often easily chilled.
However, you can save a lot of money on your heat bill if you lower the thermostat and wear warmer clothing indoors. Physical activity also generates body heat, so sit less and move more if possible. Lower the thermostat at night to about 60 degrees, and use pajamas and quilts to keep warm while asleep.
Also, winter can be a deadly time as fire is a major winter hazard, most often avoidable. Nonetheless, no dwelling should be without a working smoke and carbon monoxide detector (often available in combination). Never use the stove or oven for heat. Instead, invest in a well-designed portable space heater and use it safely, protected from young children and pets. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 40 percent of home heating fires and 84 percent of resulting deaths involve stationary or portable space heaters. Choose only those that shut off immediately if tipped over and use them only on nonflammable, hard, level surfaces. Turn off all space heaters before going to bed. Electric heaters are the only kind safe to use unvented indoors. If you use a fireplace, always protect it with a well-fitted screen to prevent sparks and embers from escaping.
If possible, avoid using extension cords, a frequent cause of house fires. But if you must, make sure cords are modern, are not frayed and are rated for the intended device. Never use one to power a heater or for more than one device. A much safer option: Have additional wall outlets installed.
If you are going to be traveling, make sure your vehicle is prepared for winter conditions, with a good battery, tires with good treads that are properly inflated, antifreeze in the radiator, working windshield wipers and plenty of no-freeze window washer fluid.
Don’t leave the car idling with windows closed or while you doze. Needless to say, never drink alcohol before driving, but you might consider having a cup of caffeinated coffee or tea.
Finally, safeguard against frozen water pipes. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe — even at a trickle — helps prevents pipes from freezing.
Winter cold can play havoc on everything from the body, to the car, to water pipes. Taking a little precaution can save in the long run, and keep you warm and safe.
Remember, spring is not that far away — only 80 days from Sunday!

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