We’ve already had our first bouts of cold weather for the season, and you’ve no doubt experienced all of the lifestyle changes that come along with it. Cold weather brings a nice change to the air, but can also bring a whole set of challenges of its own. A few things to think about as winter approaches:
Cold weather can cause problems in your car that may not be visible until it’s too late and your car won’t run. Low temperatures can slowly cause problems in everything from tires to fuel lines and ultimately lead to a dead battery or engine. Most problems in cars during cold weather take time to happen, so proper maintenance is the best prevention.
- Dead Battery – A car battery becomes weakened in cold weather because it’s powering more components than during other seasons. Additional headlight time and running the heater, which takes more power than air conditioning.
- Frozen Fuel Line – Fuel lines run the risk of freezing in the winter because condensation can form on the inside of your gas tank if it gets low on fuel. Therefore, when temperatures drop, the condensation freezes and prevents fuel from reaching the engine.
- Broken Wipers – Freezing temperatures cause windshield wipers to freeze to the windshield or become cracked, making it dangerous to drive in snowy conditions since snow can accumulate and obstruct the driver’s view.
- Tire Pressure – Cold weather can cause tires to lose pressure, which can cause them to become bald and make driving on icy or snow roads more difficult.
- Alternator Belt – Alternator belts can become cracked in cold temperatures, making it harder for the belt to bring power from the gas engine to the electrical battery which can prevent your car from starting.
Cold weather problems at home are not only a nuisance but can be costly. Preventive maintenance is key to keeping costs (and headaches!) down.
- Broken Furnace – Don’t wait till time to use it to check your furnace or heater. Turn it on early to make sure it’s working properly before the cold weather sets in. You can prolong the life of your furnace by changing the filter monthly, and using the thicker filters.
- Cracked Pipes – Some tips to make sure your pipes don’t crack: Make sure the pipes are in a heated and well-insulated area. Also, run the faucet ever so often to keep the water moving. But remember, this only keeps the pipes from freezing, it won’t thaw them. Make preparations early.
Avoid Frostbite & Hypothermia
When exposed to cold temperatures, your body will lose heat faster than it can be produced. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Warnings signs of hypothermia are shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness. Seek medical attention quickly. Hypothermia is particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t do anything about it.
Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures. At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin —frostbite may be beginning. A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.
If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care. If there is frostbite, no sign of hypothermia, and immediate medical care is not available, proceed as follows:
- Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
- Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes because this increases the damage.
- Immerse the affected area in warm water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body). Or, warm the affected area using body heat. For example, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.
- Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
- Don’t use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.
Be sure the outer layer of your clothing is tightly woven, preferably wind-resistant, to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind. Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton.
Stay dry — wet clothing chills the body rapidly. Excess perspiration will increase heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing whenever you feel too warm. Also, avoid getting gasoline or alcohol on your skin while de-icing and fueling your car or using a snowblower. These materials in contact with the skin greatly increase heat loss from the body.
Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.
Understand Wind Chill
The Wind Chill Index is the temperature your body feels when the air temperature is combined with the wind speed. When temperatures fall below freezing frostbite can occur in a matter of minutes. As the speed of the wind increases, it can carry heat away from your body much more quickly, causing skin temperature to drop. When there are high winds, serious weather-related health problems are more likely, even when temperatures are only cool.
Check on Others
When winter weather puts us in the deep freeze make certain that you take time to check on family, friends, and neighbors who are especially at risk from cold weather hazards: young children, older adults and the chronically ill. Also if you have pets, bring them inside so they can stay warm too.