Staying Safe and Healthy in Frigid Cold Weather

The middle of winter can be just as dangerous as the middle of summer, with the extremes in temperature that can occur during these times of year. Dangerous cold weather can be rough for anyone of any age and for those who are young and healthy, but can be even more so for the elderly, and for those who have chronic diseases. It's important to know what to do when the frigid weather moves in and to have a plan.

Not only can you start to become ill during very cold weather, but there is also a danger of slipping on ice if you go outside, or if the power goes out due to wind or ice, you will be in real danger of hypothermia.

People are encouraged to check on seniors during cold weather snaps, so you may have family members or a neighbor to visit you or give you a call. These family members or neighbors should also be in contact with each other, just in case you didn't answer the phone for your family member, they can call your neighbor and have them come and knock on your door. On very cold days, someone should try to contact you at least once a day.

If the power goes out, you will need to leave your house immediately, unless you have a backup generator that can run your heat and your oxygen concentrator, if you use one. If you do not have a backup generator, you will need to contact a family member who still has electricity and go to their house with anything you need, including your oxygen concentrator.

If your neighborhood's electricity is out and you don't have family members who can take you in until your electricity comes back on, call or get to your nearest fire department or emergency care facility, and they will allow you to use their facilities.

Avoid going outside for as long as you can to avoid injuries from slipping on patches of ice, and to avoid things like frost bite if the temperatures or windchill are below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Below or near 0, frostbite can happen pretty quickly, and even if you are wearing gloves if the gloves aren't very thick.

You might have a neighbor who is able to help you with checking your mail, or help you do other things that involve going outside. Bundle up and cover your mouth and nose with a scarf to prevent cold air from entering your airways and irritating them.

Your airways can also become irritated by breathing in the dry, indoor air that is being circulated throughout your home during the winter, especially if you use an oxygen concentrator. Use a room humidifier and be sure to clean it out thoroughly every day before refilling it. Do the same with your oxygen concentrator, if it has a humidifier that you can attach to the unit.

If you use a space heater, make sure there is a 2 feet diameter around it on all sides except for the bottom to prevent fire or heat damage. Try to use a heater that turns off when the room temperature gets to a certain temperature, such as 72 degrees Fahrenheit, which is comfortable for most people.

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