- You may have to cope with power failures and icy roads.
- Many homes will be too cold.
- Space heaters and fireplaces increase the risk of household fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Exposure to cold temperature can cause other serious health problems.
- When temperatures drop below normal, heat can leave your body more rapidly.
When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, staying warm and safe can become a challenge. Extremely cold temperatures often accompany a winter storm, so you may have to cope with power failures and icy roads. Although staying indoors as much as possible can help reduce the risk of car crashes and falls on the ice, you may also face indoor hazards. Many homes will be too cold—either due to a power failure or because the heating system isn't adequate for the weather. When people must use space heaters and fireplaces to stay warm, the risk of household fires increases, as well as the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoors or outside, can cause other serious or life-threatening health problems. Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk, but anyone can be affected. To keep yourself and your family safe, you should know how to prevent cold-related health problems and what to do if a cold-weather health emergency arises.
The emergency procedures outlined here are not a substitute for training in first aid. However, these procedures will help you to know when to seek medical care and what to do until help becomes available.
What Is Extreme Cold?
What constitutes extreme cold and its effects can vary across different areas of the country. In regions relatively unaccustomed to winter weather, near freezing temperatures are considered “extreme cold.” Whenever temperatures drop decidedly below normal and as wind speed increases, heat can leave your body more rapidly. These weatherrelated conditions may lead to serious health problems. Extreme cold is a dangerous situation that can bring on health emergencies in susceptible people, such as those without shelter or who are stranded, or who live in a home that is poorly insulated or without heat.
Learn More: Take Steps
**This information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012 (CDC)
Winter Weather: Stay Safe and Healthy
Serious health problems can result from prolonged exposure to the cold. The most common cold-related problems are hypothermia and frostbite.
Cold temperatures can cause your body to lose heat faster than it can be produced, which can cause hypothermia.
Frostbite is an injury to the body caused by freezing. It causes a loss of feeling and color in parts of the body.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Never use generators, grills, camp stoves, or similar divices inside your home, basement, garage, or camper.
Preparing for and coping with a sudden loss of power.
More Winter Weather Related Links and Resources -
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Outdoor action guide to hypothermia and cold-weather injuries
- National Ag Safety Database: Winter Storm Preparedness & Response
Safety at home and while traveling. Provided by University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Wisconsin Division of Emergency Government
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Winter Storm Tips
Includes dressing children, frostbite, & hypothermia. Provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Red Cross: Winter Storm
Includes preparing a winter storm plan, assembling a supplies kit, and what to do after the storm.
- US Department of Agriculture: Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency
From USDA's Food Safety & Inspection Service.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency: Winter Storms and Extreme Cold
Winter weather preparedness tips.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Tips to Protect Workers in Cold Environments
Information from the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
- National Weather Service: Winter Weather Safety and Awareness
Winter weather awareness page.
- WebMD: Hypothermia and Cold Temperature Exposure
Topic overview of Hypothermia.
- HealthScout: Hypothermia
Definition of hypothermia.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Information about New Wind Chill Index
Information on the new wind chill formula.