Cold weather tips for when you need to venture outside in the winter
The coldest months of the year are just around the corner. Learn how to fight off some of the risks associated with winter's chill. Before bundling up to head outdoors, be sure to check both the temperature and the wind chill. Wind chill indicates how the air feels on your skin. It can vary dramatically from the actual temperature. You will want to take extra safety precautions since low wind chills and cold temperatures can have dangerous effects on your body, such as frostbite and hypothermia.
- Frostbite occurs when parts of your body freeze from prolonged exposure to the cold. Warning signs include: numbness and skin that's white or grayish-yellow and unusually firm or waxy.
- Hypothermia sets in when your body is losing heat faster than it can produce it. There are several stages of hypothermia, but common symptoms include: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, slurred speech and drowsiness.
Victims with frostbite or hypothermia should receive immediate medical attention. For more information on how to respond, review these tips from the American Red Cross.
How to stay safe and warm during winter activities
If you must venture outside, layer up! Wear wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers and a tightly woven or wind-resistant outer layer. Finish off with the essentials: a hat, water-resistant boots, and gloves or mittens. Remove layers as you warm up - sweat can aid in heat loss.
Tips to stay safe while skiing or snowboarding
These safety tips can help reduce your chances of injury when you're skiing or snowboarding:
- Take lessons on how to stop, slow down and turn.
- Never ski or snowboard alone.
- Always wear a certified helmet with wraparound goggles.
- Secure loose straps or clothing.
- Identify the appropriate trails for your skill level.
- Check your equipment before and after each run.
Tips for ice skating or playing hockey during the winter months
Keep these safety guidelines in mind when ice-skating or playing hockey outside:
- Stick to ice at least 6 inches thick and free of ice fishing holes and other debris.
- Avoid ice that has formed over running water, such as a river.
- Always wear a helmet: hockey helmets offer the best protection.
- Wear proper hockey equipment, including pads and gloves.
- Learn how to properly fall on ice.
Tips for snowmobile cruising
- If you are a novice, consider taking a snowmobile or snow machine safety training course before your first outing.
- Wear a helmet that meets the current Department of Transportation certification standards.
- Wear appropriate cold weather gear, such as a snowmobile suit, snow bib, jackets, and gloves, to cut the wind, repel water and allow ventilation.
- Always go snowmobiling in groups and notify someone at home where the group is headed and the expected return time.
- Always check the weather conditions before departing.
- If traveling in mountainous terrain, check for avalanche conditions.
- Know the area where you're riding, if possible. There may be hazards, such as washouts (melted snow, flowing water or erosion impacting the trail, road or field), fences and drop-offs in unfamiliar areas.
- Before departing, check your machine's fuel and fluid levels to make sure they are sufficient for the trip. You should also check the machine's overall condition and operation.
- Never drive too fast for your comfort level, and keep speeds below 40 miles per hour at night.
- Stay on designated trails.
- Avoid driving on ice, but if it's the only option, wear a life jacket.
- Always ride sober, which includes avoiding prescription medications that may affect how you ride.
- Be cautious when crossing roadways.
- Never approach wildlife.
- Carry a first-aid kit, water and non-perishable food in case of a mishap on the trail.
Be prepared for the winter cold
Preparation is one of the best defenses against the dangers of winter storms and cold temperatures.
- When planning travel, be aware of current and forecast weather conditions.
- Keep an up-to-date emergency kit, including:
- battery-operated devices, such as a flashlight, weather radio and lamps
- extra batteries
- first-aid kit and extra medicine
- cat litter or sand for icy driveways
Even if you live in a climate where winters aren't extreme, you should still take precautions against colder temperatures. Have your furnace inspected so it can operate safely and smoothly if a cold front blows through. And don't forget about the risk of fog when warm daytime air meets cooler nighttime temperatures. Make sure to brush up on tips for driving in foggy weather.