When the kids are ready to head out into the winter wonderland, there are a few factors to take into consideration. Richard Judelsohn, MD, a pediatrician in Buffalo, N.Y., and a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics tells WebMD:
- Layer, layer, layer. “Multiple layers of clothing are more effective at preventing hypothermia than one big snowsuit,” he says.
- Cover the body, head to toe. “Gloves and hats are a must. “For the body parts that aren’t covered, like the nose and around the eyes, some protection can be had against the cold by rubbing the area with petroleum jelly, especially if the child’s nose is runny — when the mucus hits cold, dry skin, it can irritate it, and petroleum jelly prevents this,” he explains.
- Enough’s enough. “Make sure your kids know that when they start shivering, it’s time to come inside and warm up. Use a temptation like hot chocolate to give them incentive to come inside.”
- Fighting frostbite. If your kids do overstay their welcome with Old Man Winter, frostbite can be an issue. “Superficial frostbite, when the skinturns a light gray color, is treated by coming indoors and applying something warm — not hot — to the affected area, like a heating pad or warm water. When the skin is frostbitten so that it’s numb from the cold, that warrants immediate medical attention.”
- Know when to say no. “Find out the wind chill factor, and if it’s more than 20 degrees below zero, it’s just too dangerous. That’s the time to put your foot down and say, ‘No, you’re not going outside.'”
- Can you catch a cold from the cold? While you might think keeping the kids inside during the cold months will keep them healthy, that’s not necessarily the case. “Colds are due to viral infections, and viral infections are spread by close contact with others,” says Judelsohn — not the cold weather. “If you’re indoors with other people, even if you’re warm and toasty, and someone is harboring a viral infection, you’re at risk.”
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- Keep indoor cats inside. Cats can get lost in wintery weather and become injured — or worse. If there are cats outdoors, provide them with a warm place to sleep and access to unfrozen water and food. Dogs that are let off-leash during the winter, especially during a snowstorm, have a higher chance of becoming lost. Make sure your dog is wearing ID tags and has been microchipped to increase the chances of being reunited with you if they become lost.
- Check twice before starting your car. Outdoor cats often climb under the hoods of cars to keep warm. When the motor starts, the cat may be injured or killed by the fan belt. Knock or bang loudly on the hood of your car before starting it to give cats a chance to escape.
- Never leave your cat or dog in a vehicle in cold weather. The vehicle acts as a refrigerator, keeping the cold in and causing the animal to freeze.
- Towel dry your dog’s paws, legs and stomach when they come in, out of winter weather. Chemical agents used to melt ice can be dangerous for your dog to ingest while licking their paws. Snow and encrusted ice may also cause your dog’s paw pads to bleed.
- Never shave your dog in the winter. Dogs need their coat to provide warmth. When you give your dog a bath in the winter, be sure they are thoroughly dry before letting them outside. For dogs with shorter coats, consider getting a coat or sweater that covers their body from the base of the tail to the belly. Keep pets’ fur mat free. Matted fur does not allow your pet’s coat to keep the animal warm.
- Know how much cold your pet can tolerate. Puppies, small and older dogs have a lower tolerance for cold temperatures. Let them outside only to relieve themselves, or train them to use paper pads indoors.
- If your dog is built for colder weather and enjoys playing in the cold, increase the amount of food they are given, especially extra protein, to keep them and their fur healthy and in good shape.
- Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep — off the floor and away from drafts. A warm blanket or pet bed will be much appreciated by your companion! If you have an outside dog, bring them inside during these cold snaps. If your dog has to stay outside, make sure they have adequate shelter and fresh unfrozen water. Your dog’s shelter needs to keep them warm, with dry bedding and protection from the wind. Aging or undernourished pets and pets with medical conditions should not be out in the cold, even with a doghouse.
To prevent water service lines from freezing, consider taking the following actions:
- Leave a faucet slowly dripping to keep water flowing through the pipe. If water is flowing through the pipe, it is less likely to freeze. The water can be captured in a bucket and used for other purposes around the home, like watering plants and washing dishes.
- Open under-sink cabinets to allow warm air to circulate near your pipes.
- If you’re leaving for a holiday vacation, be sure to keep the temperature in your home above 55 degrees. For an extended absence, customers can also turn the water off at their meter in the basement and run faucets to drain water from the pipes, toilets and water heater to prevent extensive damage if a pipe were to burst. If customers have specific questions or need additional information on winterizing the plumbing system in their home, they should contact a licensed plumber.
What if there’s no water coming out of my faucets?
Step 1: Check Your Water Meter. If water is leaking or spraying from your meter or the bottom is cracked, your water meter is frozen. Turn your shut-off valve to the off position and call Customer Service.
Step 2: Feel for Frozen Pipes. Pipes located along exterior walls are most susceptible to freezing. To thaw pipes, contact a licensed plumber or use hot towels or a hair dryer to thaw the pipes. Never use an open flame to thaw pipes.
Step 3: Check with Your Neighbors. If your neighbors also do not have water, call Customer Service to report the problem.
Have a mechanic check the following:
- Anti-freeze levels
Keep these items in your car:
- Window scraper
- Kitty litter or sand (In case you get stuck)
- Extra clothes
- High protein snacks
- A first-aid kit
- A flashlight
- A small battery-operated radio
- An emergency contact card with names and phone numbers
- Extra prescription medications
Driving in the winter:
Fill your vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
- Pay attention to the weather forecast. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
- If you have to drive, make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions, such as cell phones.
- Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
- Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
- Don’t pass snow plows.
- Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.
If you become stuck in the snow or icy conditions:
- Stay with your car. Do not try to walk to safety.
- Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.
- Don’t run your engine and heater constantly to help avoid running out of gas. Don’t use things like lights or the radio without the engine running so the battery doesn’t conk out.
- If you can, move your vehicle off the roadway. Stay with it — don’t abandon it. If you have to get out of your vehicle, use a door on the side of your vehicle that faces away from traffic.
- Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won’t back up in the car.
- Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running to help rescuers see the vehicle.
- Keep one window slightly open — away from the blowing wind — to let in fresh air.
- Keep items that will burn — like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs — at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves or fireplaces.
- Don’t leave portable heaters and fireplaces unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
- Place any space heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
- When buying a space heater, look for models that have the safety measure of shutting off automatically if the heater falls over.
- Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
- Using a fireplace? Make sure you have a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.