Winter in the Colorado Rockies can be beautiful, but with cold, snowy, windy weather come challenges to health and safety for everyone. Taking a few steps to reduce the risk of cold-related illness, injury and hazards can help make the difference in a comfortable winter versus the incidence of issues that may not melt away with the snow.
Keep it clean.
It’s true – one of the best ways to ward off colds and flu is to keep hands clean, washing them often with soap and warm water. To help facilitate clean hands, place dispensers of hand sanitizer in several places around the home – the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, near the telephone, exterior doors, and wherever your family members like to spend their time during the day. Hand sanitizers are a quick and easy way to kill germs without having to make a trip to the sink – and they save water. Keep food preparation surfaces sanitized and clean your cell phone often.
Take steps to stay healthy.
Practice and remind your loved ones of basic health tips. Don’t touch nose, mouth and eyes with other than clean hands. Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not into your hand. Provide and eat a good diet and talk to your health practitioner about supplements or other recommendations to boost the immune system. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration – the humidity in winter is often less than in summer plus some forms of heat deplete moisture from the home. Get plenty of rest to keep the body’s defenses strong.
Make your home winter-friendly.
Consider installing a programmable thermostat to insure that a safe and comfortable temperature is maintained in the home, while conserving energy and costs. Install a carbon monoxide sensor – they are inexpensive and will sound an alarm if carbon monoxide levels are too high. Carbon monoxide is a risk with any source of combustion – gas stoves, gas water heaters, gas furnaces, wood burning or gas fireplaces – especially when there is inefficient burning or poor ventilation. Have chimneys checked and cleaned regularly. Be sure that fireplaces have sturdy screens to avoid sparks popping out or flammable materials coming into contact with flames. Install locks on doors that fully unlock when opened to avoid getting locked outside in potentially dangerous weather. Some door knob locks remain in the locked position even when the door is opened as is the case with some storm door latches.
An ounce of prevention….
Take steps to eliminate the risk of falls. Reduce the necessity for you or your loved ones to go outside when ice is present. Remove obstacles that may not be apparent if covered with snow. Ensure that hand rails along both stairs and walkways are in good repair. Provide containers of sand or ice melt next to entry doors, stairs and walkways along with an easy to use scoop to cut down on slippery surfaces. Dress in layers when you go out to help retain body heat. Make a place for coats, gloves, hats and scarves near exterior doors to reduce the temptation to go out, even for a few minutes, without them – it takes only minutes for hypothermia to set in when skin is exposed to low temps. If you can’t do it yourself, contract with someone to remove snow and ice periodically and after each storm. Take breaks if you shovel your own snow and shovel safely to avoid injury – lift with your legs and don’t fill those shovels too full to avoid shoulder injury.
Don’t leave pets outdoors. Domesticated animals are not equipped to handle the weather extremes that wildlife can survive. Always have water available. When taking dogs out for potty breaks or walks, have them wear booties to prevent damage to pads and to avoid the accumulation of salts and snow-melt products on paws. If your dog refuses to wear boots, clean the paws with lukewarm water after walking anywhere that salts or other snow-melt products may have been used. If licked off the paws, these products can cause gastrointestinal upset and some products may be toxic. If you use ice melt products yourself choose one such as Paw-Safe, which is non-toxic and safe for paws. Do not let your pets come in contact with anti-freeze. It has a sweet taste that is tempting to pets. Even a tiny amount can be lethal.
Remember those who are elderly or disabled.
Check often on those who are elderly, disabled, ill, have mobility issues, or live alone. Consider helping to set up a calling tree among and for elderly and home-bound friends. Schedule times each day or two for friends to call each other. Provide each participant with phone numbers for another family member of the friend they are to call that they can contact in case their “phone buddy” doesn’t answer at the time of their scheduled call. Help by picking up mail, shoveling snow, and running errands, or arrange volunteers who can help with these chores.
Thinking ahead and taking a few steps to maintain health and safety means more enjoyment of the beauty and awe that our Colorado winters bestow! Happy Winter!