Winter Health and Safety Tips

With the New Year and winter in full swing, now is a great time to remind yourself of how to stay safe and healthy with the cold conditions. OCH provider Angela Standefer, FNP-C offers some tips to make it through the winter:

  • Get IMMUNIZED! Anyone over the age of six months should get vaccinated against influenza. If you have a history of asthma, COPD or smoking it is recommended you also get your pneumonia and Prevnar vaccines. Talk to your doctor about vaccines for you.
  • Dress for the weather. A key to staying healthy this winter is knowing the forecast. Check the weather before getting dressed for the day to ensure you are prepared. Choose warm clothing. If it is wet, it is a good idea to wear a pair of water resistant shoes, hat and gloves, and a coat to avoid frostbite.
  • Don’t FALL victim to icy terrain. Watch your step when walking on wet and icy surfaces. The risk of falls can be greatly reduced by choosing appropriate footwear and using salt (or another kind of ice melting material) on the ground. Choose shoes that have traction so your feet are equipped.
  • Humidity isn’t always a bad thing. While humidity can wreak havoc on your hair, it can also prevent dry skin and nose bleeds. Use a humidifier in your home to avoid dry air. If you do catch the sniffles, humidifiers help your body stay hydrated.
  • Have an emergency kit in your car. Traveling even short distances can be hazardous in winter weather conditions. It is crucial to be prepared in case this happens. This includes:
    • Make sure your cell phone is charged so you can call for help.
    • Have a first aid kit in case you get hurt on ice.
    • Keep a blanket or extra coat in the car to keep yourself and the kids warm. While keeping the car running might sound like a good idea at the time, your battery could be depleted before help can arrive, causing further problems.
    • Munchies may be obvious for a long car trip, but they are also a good idea to keep in your emergency kit.
    • Kitty litter can give your car traction when stuck in ice or snow. Keep a cheap bag in your trunk to help you escape the conditions.
    • Keep an ice scraper in your car so if you get into unexpected bad weather, you can keep your windows clean for safe travel.

Depending on the conditions, it may take a long time for a tow truck to get to you in severe weather. Being prepared will allow you to survive the frigid conditions.

  • Carry a medication list with you. Include what medicines you are currently taking, medical allergies and emergency phone numbers on a small piece of paper in your wallet so it can be easily located. If you suddenly fall ill having this information will be helpful.
    • iPhone Hack: You can add your medical information to your iPhone that can be accessed without unlocking your phone.
      • To set up your Medical ID, open the “Health” app. Along the bottom menu, click Medical ID (far right). In the top right corner, click Edit and enter your health information. You can include Name, DOB, Medical Conditions, Medical Notes, Allergies & Reactions, Medications, Blood Type, Organ Donation status, Weight, and Height. Before hitting save, make sure to allow Emergency Access.
      • Your Medical ID can be viewed when the phone is locked by tapping Emergency, then Medical ID.
    • Wash your hands. Good hand washing is one of the most important things you can do to avoid colds and the flu. Covering your cough can also help from spreading germs to your family and friends.
    • Space heaters are convenient, but dangerous. While having a space heater may seem like a good alternative to cranking up the heat, they can also cause house fires or burns on both children and adults. Follow manufacturers’ directions. The safest options for space heaters have a safety mechanism in place that will turn the heater off if it falls over or gets too hot.
    • Chimney sweeps aren’t just for Mary Poppins. If you have a chimney, have it checked by a professional each year before use to make sure it is clean and safe.
    • Carbon monoxide isn’t just in car exhaust. If your home or apartment is heated with natural gas, make sure to have a carbon monoxide alarm to alert you if carbon monoxide levels are dangerously high. If it goes off, leave the home to get fresh air and call 911 from a neighbor’s home.
    • Don’t forget the sunscreen! The cold weather can trick us into thinking we are safe from sunburns. However, snow is a great reflector for the sun and you can still get a nasty sunburn in the winter.

Angela Standefer, FNP-C sees patients for family practice and hepatitis in Springfield in the OCH Medical Offices Clinic and in Bolivar at the OCH Polk County Clinic. She collaborates with Jackie Beene, MD and seeks to bring better health to the community.

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