Whether you live in a cold climate or are visiting, here’s how to prepare for the weather.
During extreme cold weather or winter storms, staying warm and safe can be a challenge. This is especially true if you are an older adult or you live alone. If you usually live in a warmer climate but occasionally spend time in a location where you may encounter cold, ice or snow, knowing how to deal with winter weather is also helpful, especially because you aren’t used to it.
Here are some helpful tips to stay safer during winter weather conditions:
- Listen to weather forecasts. By doing this, you’ll usually have several days to prepare before a big storm or cold snap hits, whether you need to stock up on supplies, cancel appointments or make plans to stay with someone.
- Make sure you’re prepared. Stock up on at least a few days of emergency supplies, food, medicine and water when a winter storm or extreme cold is expected, in case the power goes out or you can’t get out safely for a while. If you can’t get out to get supplies yourself, ask a family member, friend or neighbor to help. If you have any concerns about being alone during a storm, see if someone can stay with you or if you can make arrangements to go elsewhere.
- Dress appropriately. If you’re out in the cold, layer clothing to stay warmer (and so you can remove layers as needed if you get too hot). Change out of wet clothing quickly because being wet chills the body.
- Do not ignore shivering. If you start to shiver, it’s a sign your body is losing heat and that it’s time to get inside and warm up quickly. Cold weather puts an extra strain on your heart so it’s especially important to not spend too much time in the cold if you have any heart conditions.
- Be careful when shoveling. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Dress warmly and work slowly. Don’t overdo it and pay attention to any signs that you need to stop. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Avoid walking on ice. Many injuries occur from falls on ice-covered sidewalks, steps, driveways, streets and porches. Rock salt or a chemical de-icing compound melts ice and sand reduces the risk of slipping, so use these to make areas outside your home less slippery (or better yet, see if someone can do it for you). If it’s icy, try to avoid walking outside as much as possible until the ice melts.
- Heat your home safely. If your home isn’t warm enough by turning up the thermostat or you’re afraid of what your utility bill may be if you do, stay warm with extra blankets and winter coats or a wood or gas fireplace that is up to code. Don’t turn on the stove for heat because it’s not safe. Space heaters can also be dangerous.
- Light your home safely. If there is a power failure, use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns rather than candles. Candles can lead to house fires. If you do use candles, never leave them unattended when lit.
- Eat and drink to stay warmer. Eating well-balanced meals helps you stay warmer. Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, which can cause your body to lose heat faster. Instead opt for a warm cup of herbal tea or decaffeinated coffee.
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Date Last Reviewed: October 3, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD