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Extreme Cold in Ohio 

With winter weather upon us, the Ohio Department of Health is urging Ohioans to take preventive action against cold weather as well as future snow storms. By preparing your home and car in advance for winter emergencies, and by observing safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather, you can reduce the risk of weather-related health problems.

Although staying indoors as much as possible can help reduce the risk of car crashes and falls on the ice, you may also face indoor hazards. Many homes will be too cold—either due to a power failure or because the heating system isn't adequate for the weather. When people must use space heaters and fireplaces to stay warm, the risk of household fires increases, as well as the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.Winter Ready Winter Steady graphic

Older Ohioans need to be especially careful during the winter months because, as we age, our bodies react differently to extreme conditions. The Ohio Department of Aging and the STEADY U Ohio falls prevention initiative urge all Ohioans to prepare today so that you will be “Winter READY | Winter STEADY!”

Winter READY

Create a preparedness plan and kit that will enable you to remain in place for three days in case you become unable to leave your home because of weather conditions.

  • Your emergency kit should contain, at a minimum, a battery operated radio, flashlight, extra batteries, a loud whistle or bell, food you can open and prepare easily, water (one gallon per person per day), extra blankets and a first aid kit.
  • Keep a backup supply of the medications you take every day. Have an ice chest on hand and keep ice packs in the freezer for medications that need to be kept cool.
  • Make sure your medical equipment and assistive devices (such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs, lifts, oxygen tanks, etc.) are easy to locate in an emergency. Have spare batteries and non-powered options for equipment that will not work without electricity.
  • Designate a safe place to go if it becomes unsafe to stay in your home, such as a friend’s or neighbor's house or shelter. Have a plan for getting there.
  • Be prepared to quickly explain to rescue personnel in an emergency how to help you move safely and quickly (e.g., "take my oxygen tank," "get my insulin from the refrigerator").

For more resources to prepare for winter, visit www.weathersafety.ohio.gov.

Winter STEADY

One in three older Ohioans will fall this year, and your chance for taking a spill goes up in wintry conditions. Falls are not a normal part of aging, and most falls can be prevented.

  • Stay active to maintain the strength and balance you need to prevent falls. Ask your doctor or physical therapist about easy indoor exercises.
  • Invest in extra lamps and the highest-wattage bulbs for your fixtures to ensure you can always see where you are walking, especially around doorways and stairs.
  • Dress warmly when going out but avoid coats, gloves, hats and other winter clothing that are bulky, don’t fit well or can catch on nearby objects and cause you to trip or stumble.
  • Wear boots and shoes that fit properly and have soles with good traction. Keep shoes and walking aids (canes, walkers) dry and free of snow, ice, dirt and mud.
  • Keep sidewalks and stairs outside your home clean of ice and snow. Make sure steps leading into your home have sturdy handrails that can support you if you slip.
  • Keep space heaters, cords and blankets out of walkways. If you must use throw rugs on cold floors, secure them to the floor with tape.
  • Carry a cell phone and designate someone to call for help if you need it.

For more tips and resources to prevent falls this winter and year-round, visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov.

Your area agency on aging can help you identify resources, such as energy assistance, chore service and minor home repairs that can help you stay warm and safe this winter. Call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the agency serving your community.

Follow these important steps to protect those of all ages:

  • Use fireplace, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space.
  • Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors—the fumes are deadly.
  • Do not use a gas or electric stove to heat your home. 
  • Never leave lit candles unattended.
  • Keep as much heat as possible inside your home.
  • Check the temperature in your home often during severely cold weather.
  • Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
  • Eat well-balanced meals to help you stay warmer.

If you must go outside:

  • Dress warmly and stay dry.
  • Wear a hat, scarf, and mittens. Avoid frostbite.
  • If you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Avoid walking on ice or getting wet.
  • Notify friends and family where you will be before you go hiking, camping, or skiing.
  • Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads, overpasses, and bridges if at all possible.
  • If you are stranded, it is safest to stay in your car.

Be cautious about travel:

  • Listen for radio or television reports of travel advisories issued by the National Weather Service.
  • Do not travel in low visibility conditions.
  • Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads, overpasses, and bridges if at all possible.
  • If you must travel by car, use tire chains and take a mobile phone with you.
  • If you must travel, let someone know your destination and when you expect to arrive. Ask them to notify authorities if you are late.
  • Check and restock the winter emergency supplies in your car before you leave.
  • Never pour water on your windshield to remove ice or snow; shattering may occur.
  • Don’t rely on a car to provide sufficient heat; the car may break down.
  • Always carry additional warm clothing appropriate for the winter conditions.

winter weather infographic

Know the risks of extremely cold temperatures

When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.

Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water. Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

 

For more information on the weather in your area currently, visit www.weather.com or the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

 

Page reviewed: 12/28/2017