Old Man Winter May Have Many Tricks, But You Can Outsmart Him

Old Man Winter May Have Many Tricks, But You Can Outsmart Him

<p>It’s everyone’s least favorite month of the year, and winter has firmly planted its roots. Whether the sheen has worn off for you already or you’re still captivated by the serene gentleness, the environment out your window carries many hazards that demand your attention. From slippery sidewalks to bone-chilling temperatures, the winter months require a unique kind of vigilance and caution. </p> <p>In this article, we delve into the main hazards that accompany the season along with some overlooked issues, offering strategies to help individuals navigate winter’s frosty embrace. Buckle up your snow boots and read on as we unravel the stealthy hazards that lurk beneath. </p> <h2>Surviving the perilous outdoors</h2> <h3>Ice</h3> <p>When is ice ever truly safe? Beyond sitting at the bottom of your glass, there’s no sure way to answer. </p> <p>You can’t judge the strength of ice by one factor alone. The appearance, age, thickness, temperature, whether snow covering is present, the depth of water under the ice, the currents and chemistry, the size of the water body, and distribution of the load all determine the strength of the ice.</p> <p>Stepping out on ice should always be considered a risk. Four inches of clear, newly formed ice could support a person on foot, yet a foot or more of old ice that has partially thawed is liable to break. Thickness doesn’t always have the final word, to put it another way.</p> <p>Of course, you don’t need to tempt fate on a lake to be hurt by ice. Icy sidewalks and driveways do plenty of damage on their own thanks to the significant risk of slips and falls. </p> <p>Ice-melting salt (or even sand or cat litter) should be used on steps and slippery surfaces to create clear and safe pathways in and out of the house. You can make your movement extra safe with slip-resistant soles on your shoes or boots. Shorter steps, bending slightly at the knees, and maintaining a center of gravity over the feet help when traversing a particularly dangerous spot.</p> <h3>Dress appropriately</h3> <p>Proper gear is the foundation of cold weather safety. Layering allows you to retain body heat while adjusting according to fluctuations in temperatures.</p> <p>Try a moisture-wicking base to keep sweat off the skin (keeps the ick factor off as well as the cold), stack insulating layers on top of that, and finish with a water- and windproof top layer. Any exposed area causes you to lose body heat, so don’t forget gloves, hats, scarves, and insulated footwear to keep out the biting cold.</p> <h3>Frostbite and hypothermia</h3> <p>Frostbite is an injury caused by extreme cold in which both the skin and underlying tissues are frozen. Permanent damage can happen if steps aren’t taken to remedy the situation quickly. It typically happens to extremities like fingers, toes, noses, and ears. </p> <figure><img alt="" height="312" src="https://cdn.storymd.com/optimized/Wdx83eted2/original.gif" width="571" /> <figcaption>Signs and Symptoms of Frostbite <em>Source: CDC</em></figcaption> </figure> <p>Symptoms include:</p> <ul> <li>Redness or pain in the area</li> <li>A white/gray-yellow skin area</li> <li>Skin that is strangely firm or waxy</li> <li>Numbness</li> <li>Tingling</li> <li>Blisters (filled with clear fluid or possibly blood)</li> </ul> <p>Hypothermia is when a person experiences an unusually low body temperature (below 95 degrees is an emergency). Shivering, fatigue, confusion, trembling hands, poor memory, and slurred speech are signs of hypothermia.</p> <p>Medical attention is needed in case of frostbite or hypothermia. The immediate priority is to get the patient to a warm area to recuperate.</p> <h3>Driving</h3> <p>Your vehicle needs to be winter-ready before the season comes:</p> <p>Proper tire maintenance is essential for safe driving. Tires require adequate tread depth to have sufficient traction when traversing snow or ice. Winter tires are designed for such conditions, as they offer superior grip and handling in icy climates. Keep an eye on tire pressure too as it tends to drop more easily in cold weather.</p> <p>Colder temperatures are also harsh on your car battery; have it tested to make sure it has enough charge to withstand winter’s demands and clean the terminals and connection to avoid corrosion. If your battery is old, it might be worth getting it replaced.</p> <p>Keeping your windshield clear is a non-negotiable, especially in a storm. Winter-grade washer fluid is designed to keep it clear in this weather, so you won’t lose visibility at the worst moment. All vital fluids like engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, steering fluid, and coolant should be accounted for too. </p> <p>Washer fluid is one thing, but that’s no use unless you have working wiper blades. If yours show signs of cracking or reduced effectiveness, consider replacing them. There are winter-specific blades you can buy to handle the snow and ice.</p> <p>Keep the fuel tank at least half full. A fuller tank stops moisture from building up in the fuel lines and makes sure you’ve enough fuel to keep you going if there are unexpected delays owing to weather conditions.</p> <p>Lastly, don’t forget about the heating system. Check that the radiator, hoses, and thermostat are in good condition. Have any issues addressed so you don’t end up in a miserable situation without a blast of heat to keep you going.</p> <h2>Winterizing your home</h2> <p>While the outdoors presents the greatest winter risks, you need a proper home to retreat to so you and your family can withstand these challenging months.</p> <h3>Insulation</h3> <p>This is the first line of defense against the chills of winter. A thorough scan of all windows and doors is needed to identify drafts so you can seal gaps and cracks with weather-stripping materials. Old insulation, particularly in the walls and attic, may need to be replaced to prevent excessive heat loss. Proper insulation ensures your house will stay warm and is energy efficient, reducing costs.</p> <h3>Heating system </h3> <p>This is the backbone of your winter comfort. Before the frost sets in, have your system inspected by a professional to ensure it is clean, operating efficiently, and properly ventilated. A well-maintained heating system not only keeps your home warm but also cuts the risk of a breakdown on the coldest days.</p> <h3>Pipes and plumbing</h3> <p>The frozen grip of winter can cost you serious money in the form of damaged pipes. Pipes found in unheated areas like basements and crawl spaces should be insulated to protect against leaks.</p> <p>If you know a storm is coming and things are about to get super cold, give your pipes an extra chance at staying warm by opening cabinets under sinks to allow the house’s heat in. If your pipes do freeze, turn off the water at the valve. This will stop broken pipes from leaking into the house following the thaw.</p> <p>One trick during a deep freeze is to let the faucets (from both hot and cold sources) drip slightly so the water is kept running through the night. Standing water is more likely to freeze and solidify, which can burst the pipe. </p> <h3>Advisories</h3> <p>Pay attention to instructions from your local government. They can alert you to weather advisories and serious storms that put you and your family at risk. Winter storm warnings are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the storm begins.</p> <h3>Chimney and fireplace </h3> <p>Nothing is cozier than a fireplace at this time of year, but regular maintenance of the chimney is vital. A pro can have your chimney inspected and cleaned to remove creosote buildups. Creosote is the blackish residue that forms in wood-burning fires, and it is highly flammable and combustible. It may be crusty, flaky, shiny, or hard. </p> <p>Ensure that there is adequate airflow by keeping the damper fully open during use. Installing a chimney cap with a spark arrester will help to prevent debris, leaves, and animals from falling into the chimney.</p> <figure><img alt="" height="395" src="https://cdn.storymd.com/optimized/RdaR8wTXql/original.png" width="702" /> <figcaption>Winterize Your Home <em>Source: National Weather Service</em></figcaption> </figure> <h3>Winter emergency kit</h3> <p>In the unlikely event that things go south during a winter storm, you don’t want to leave yourself empty-handed. Having an emergency winter kit on hand can be the lifeline that gets you through the worst of it. At a minimum, it should feature blankets, flashlights, batteries, non-perishable food items, and a first aid kit. </p> <h3>Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors</h3> <p>These are needed year-round, but during winter they’re even more important. Working smoke detectors should be strategically placed around your home, ensuring coverage for each bedroom and every level of the home including the basement. Batteries should be tested monthly and replaced twice a year. </p> <p>The plummeting temperatures mean that people naturally turn up the heat, but without proper precautions, you may be putting yourself at risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. More than 50,000 people visit emergency rooms annually owing to accidental CO poisoning, 430 cases of which are fatal.</p> <p>CO is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that is produced through the burning of fossil fuels. Coal, wood, oil, and gas are combustible and release numerous toxins into the air, including CO. Furnaces, generators, gas heaters, stoves, and cars are common sources of CO poisoning.</p> <p>That home heating service pro can make sure the system is in good shape and ventilated properly, reducing your risk of CO poisoning. All vents and flues throughout the house should be cleared of debris to ensure proper ventilation.</p> <p>It’s essential to have a CO detector installed to alert you to the presence of a CO buildup. Make sure to change the battery seasonally; a good rule is to change it when the clocks change in fall and spring.</p> <p>The symptoms of CO include:</p> <ul> <li>Headache </li> <li>Dizziness </li> <li>Weakness </li> <li>Upset stomach </li> <li>Vomiting </li> <li>Chest pain </li> <li>Confusion</li> </ul> <p>“Carbon monoxide can build up quickly and put your family at risk, especially during the winter months when we increase the use of our heaters, said Deb Brown, Chief Mission Officer of the American Lung Association. “That is why it is so important to not only have carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home but know the symptoms and the steps to act quickly in case of an emergency.” </p> <h2>More on Winter Hazards</h2><ul><li><a href="https://soulivity.storymd.com/journal/mr7xx3nhzj-winter-hazards" target="_blank">Winter Weather and Its Hazards</a></li><li><a href="https://soulivity.storymd.com/journal/bmp88xqh6j-winter-weather-safety" target="_blank">Winter Weather Safety: How to Stay Safe During Winter Storms</a></li><li><a href="https://soulivity.storymd.com/journal/nwlv33ptem-carbon-monoxide-poisoning" target="_blank">Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning: Symptoms, Prevention</a></li></ul>

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