Staying Safe and Healthy in Winter Weather

February 5, 2014

Winter has arrived, and it is here in full force. With freezing temperatures and icy roads, it can be challenging to maintain good health. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has issued excellent advice for preventing cold temperature-related injuries and health conditions.

The Dangers of Winter Weather

In addition to fall-related injuries (such as slipping on ice) the CDC warns against the following conditions related to the stress put on the body by cold temperatures:

  • Hypothermia: when your temperature drops quickly, and your body cannot accommodate. Symptoms include shivering and tiredness.
  • Cold Water Immersion: when your skin is exposed to cold liquids, it can cause another form of hypothermia called “immersion hypothermia”.
  • Trench foot: related to immersion hypothermia. This occurs when your feet are consistently wet during frigid winter weather. Symptoms include pain and numbness in the feet.
  • Frostbite: when your skin (especially on your nose, fingers, toes and ears) is exposed to freezing temperatures for extended periods of time. Symptoms include pain or numbness in these areas.
  • Chilblains: when cold temperatures damage small blood vessels under the skin, especially on the ears, fingers and toes. Symptoms include redness and itching.

How to Treat Cold Stress-Related Health Conditions

  • Go indoors to a warm place as soon as possible
  • Remove all wet clothing, dry your skin with a soft, clean towel, and put on warm, dry clothing.
  • Warm yourself with an electric blanket or other warm blanket, covering your entire body
  • If you have been exposed to cold temperatures for longer than usual periods of time, start out with mild warming measures, and increase the temperature slowly. Do not immerse yourself in temperatures that are too high, as an abrupt change in temperatures may cause more harm than good.
  • If you notice any cuts, bleeding, or bluish-colored skin around areas exposed to the cold, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Preparing for Winter Weather

There are many simple steps your can take to keep as healthy as possible when freezing weather is on the way:

  • Make sure you have enough of your daily medications to last through a winter storm. If you are running low, refill your prescriptions before the freezing weather arrives.
  • If your pharmacy delivers medications, request this service before you run out of medication, to leave plenty of time to receive your prescriptions.
  • Make sure your home is well insulated. If you are not sure, check with a professional who can ensure calking of windows, and within-wall insulation is adequate.
  • If you must go outdoors, wear multiple layers of clothing, and be sure to wear a hat which covers your ears, a scarf to protect your face, and waterproof boots to protect your feet.
  • Always wash your hands before you eat, and after using the restroom. Winter is a common time for illnesses to spread, and most can be prevented by hand washing.
  • If you have any health-related questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact your pharmacist. He or she is always happy to offer advice on staying healthy all year long.

For more information on cold-related stress and health conditions, visit


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