As temperatures drop, it’s essential to prepare for the potential health risks that come with cold weather. Whether you’re facing an unexpected cold spell or gearing up for the coldest time of the year in your region, being informed and ready can help you and your family stay safe and healthy. Here’s a guide to help you prepare for extreme cold weather.
Understanding Extreme Cold
According to a report from the U.S. Climate Program Office, extreme winter weather events are becoming more common due to climate change. These events can pose various health risks, especially if you’re not adequately prepared.
How Your Body Responds to Extreme Cold
Understanding how your body reacts to extreme cold can help you recognize potential health risks. Here’s what happens to your body in extreme cold:
- Impact on the lungs: Breathing in cold air can cause a stinging sensation in your lungs due to the contact between cold air and moist lung surfaces.
- Effect on blood flow: In response to cold, your body redirects blood flow to vital organs, reducing circulation to your extremities.
- Risk of frostbite: Frostbite occurs when skin and tissues freeze due to exposure to cold temperatures, especially in windy conditions.
Expert Tips for Staying Safe in a Blizzard
When facing a blizzard or extreme cold, follow these expert tips to stay safe:
- Dress in layers: Layering clothing helps trap warm air close to your body and provides better insulation.
- Cover exposed skin: Use scarves, hats, and gloves to protect your skin from frostbite.
- Limit outdoor exposure: Minimize time spent outdoors during extreme cold, especially if you have a chronic health condition.
- Stay dry: Moisture can accelerate heat loss from your body, so keep your clothing dry.
RELATED: Cold Weather & Your Lungs
How to Successfully Manage Chronic Disease in Extremely Cold Weather
Having a chronic disease during extremely cold weather can make things even more challenging. Here are some tips to keep you safe:
Cold air can trigger asthma symptoms like shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. If you have asthma, be cautious when going outside in extremely cold temperatures. Use a rescue inhaler if needed, but if you have difficulty breathing, seek medical help immediately.
Cold weather can affect blood sugar levels, especially for those with diabetes. Monitor your blood sugar closely and avoid keeping insulin in cold temperatures to prevent it from freezing. If you have diabetic neuropathy, be aware of the risk of frostbite due to decreased sensation in your feet.
Some people experience increased joint pain in very cold weather. If you have arthritis, consider taking anti-inflammatory medication before outdoor activities and take frequent breaks to warm up if you need to be outside for an extended period.
4. Autoimmune Disease
Raynaud’s phenomenon, which affects blood flow to the extremities, can be exacerbated by cold weather. Limit your