Baby, It’s Cold Out There
A safe and healthy winter season goes hand in hand with a little preparation. For any of us living in northern Arizona, we are aware of the rapid temperature changes. We can see the daytime high temperature plummeting forty degrees as the sun goes down. We have seen low temperatures well below zero in the dead of winter. We have seen cloudless days and blue skies replaced with storm clouds and whiteout snow in the blink of an eye. With these life threatening weather transitions, it is best to be prepared.
As many of us prefer to stay tucked in at home, we are not guaranteed to be secure and protected. A healthy home starts with good insulation to prevent the heat loss from wind and low temperatures. Weather stripping windows and doorjambs, cleaning out gutters and downspouts, and insulating exterior pipes are a good start.
Professional cleaning and maintenance of furnace systems can be an excellent investment to assure a warm and cozy home. Change filters, clean woodstoves, fireplaces and chimneys seasonally, and install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well. To have an alternative heating system and available fuel or an emergency generator can be especially beneficial for the common power outages during a winter storm.
We still need to go out from time to time, so preparing your vehicle for the winter is also a wise idea. Service and top off all fluids with low temperature fluids, and assure the tire tread is adequate. Keep the fuel tank topped to avoid accumulation of water in the tank and lines. Maintain an emergency road kit, including extra blankets, flashlight and batteries, jumper cables, some food and water, first aid kit and a shovel with cat litter or sand for traction if you get stuck. Keep an eye on the weather, and avoid travel with inclement forecasts.
If you must travel during bad weather, make sure you have advised a friend or family member of your route and expected travel time. If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle. Use an exterior light on your car, and flag the antenna. Run the engine no more than ten minutes an hour, keep a downwind window cracked and keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow.
Finally, if you must spend time in the elements, dressing in layers provides the best ability to stay warm. The skin layer should be a wicking layer of merino wool, synthetics like polyester or silk to take moisture away from the skin. The middle layer is the insulation, with good choices including wool, fleece or goose down. The outer layer or shell should be both wind and water resistant. There are varying degrees of waterproof vs water resistant and breathable vs non-breathable choices that have a wide variety of cost as well. And don’t forget hats, gloves and boots to complete your weather protection.
Live well, travel well, dress well and stay well through the harsh winter weather of northern Arizona.
Bradford Croft, DO
East Flagstaff Family Medicine