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Cold Weather Helpful Tips

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If you live in the North or Midwest, As I do, you know the drill. Four to five months of heavy clothes, seeing your icy breath and generally freezing outside. Sometimes even elsewhere, Winter stops in for an often unexpected visit. But beyond the inconvenience and discomfort, a winter storm or other severe weather conditions can cause real damage to you or property. So it's very important to get ready with a winter preparedness plan.

Winter has its fun perks but, let's not forget that it gets COLD. These Winter helpful tips will help you keep warm in your home all winter long. So use these tips for winter to stay warm, combat the cold, prevent dry skin, and keep your house cozy all winter long. Whether you're looking for tips on buying the right space heater, want to learn how to make a free draft stopper for your door, or want to learn tricks for keeping the cold out, you'll like these cold-weather tips for your home,

Protecting your home is vital. A frozen water pipe can burst and flood your house or basement. An ice dam in your gutter can cause water to seep into and saturate an interior wall. And then there’s your car. Making sure it’s prepped to face winters worst is just as critical. After all, what would happen if a blizzard stranded you in your car?

Prepare yourself

Some winter weather tips to help you get through a severe stretch of cold:

  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy walkways.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. It’s a serious workout, and going at it too hard can bring on a heart attack − a major cause of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.
  • Stay dry. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits the cold rapidly.
Prepare your home

Some tips to brace your home for a winter storm:

  • Clean out the gutters, disconnect and drain all outside hoses. If possible, shut off outside water valves.
  • Insulate walls and attics, and caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
  • Repair roof leaks and remove tree branches that could get weighed down with ice or snow and fall on your house – or your neighbor's. (Avoid liability for the latter.)
  • Wrap water pipes in your basement or crawl spaces with insulation sleeves to slow heat transfer.
  • Consider an insulated blanket for your hot water heater.
  • If you have a fireplace, keep the flue closed when you're not using it.
  • Have a contractor check your roof to see if it would sustain the weight of a heavy snowfall.
  • Make sure your furniture isn't blocking your home’s heating vents.
  • During cold spells, keep cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around pipes, particularly those in the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through unheated or unprotected spaces.
  • If your house will be unattended during cold periods, consider draining the water system.
  • Avoid ice dams – where water from melted snow refreezes in the gutters and seeps in under the roof, soaking interior walls. Here’s how:
    • Ventilate your attic.
    • Insulate the attic floor well to minimize the amount of heat rising through the attic from within the house.
    • Consider having a water-repellent membrane installed under your roof covering.
Prepare your car

According to the Department of Transportation, 22% of all vehicle crashes in the U.S. – and 16% of the fatalities – are due to severe weather such as rain, snow, sleet, and ice. Prepare your car for treacherous conditions and extremely cold temperatures – and know what to do if you find yourself stranded in a vehicle. When the temperatures start to drop:

  • Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive, travel during the day.
  • Don’t travel alone. Keep others informed of your schedule.
  • Stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
  • Top off antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, gas, oil, and other fluids.
  • Make sure your tires have enough tread. Consider snow tires.
  • Keep bagged salt or sand in the trunk for extra traction and to melt ice.
  • Clear snow from the top of the car, headlights, and windows.
  • Save the numbers for your auto club, insurance agent and towing service into your cell phone.
  • Keep a cold-weather kit in your trunk. It should include a blanket or sleeping bag, gloves, hard candy, bottled water, folding shovel, first aid kit, flashlight, and cell phone charger.
If you get stranded:

Staying in your car when stranded is often the safest choice if winter storms create poor visibility or if roadways are ice-covered. These steps will increase your safety when stranded:

  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna as a signal to rescuers and raise the hood of the car (if it is not snowing).
  • Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area.
  • Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers.
  • Stay awake. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems.
  • Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe—this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve your circulation and stay warmer.
  • Do not eat snow because it will lower your body temperature.
  • Huddle with other people for warmth.
  • Remain inside. Rescuers are more likely to find you there.
  • Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes every hour. Clear any snow from the exhaust pipe to reduce your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Move around to maintain heat.
  • Use maps, floor mats and seat covers for insulation.
  • Take turns sleeping. Someone should always be awake to alert rescuers.
  • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Turn on the inside light at night so rescue crews can find you.
  • If you’re stranded in a remote area, stomp out the words "SOS" or "HELP" in the snow.
Cold-related injuries
  • Watch for signs of frostbite: loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities. If any of these occur, get medical help immediately.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. 
  • If any of the hypothermia symptoms appear, get yourself (or the victim) to a warm location, remove wet clothing, and warm the center of the body first. Give the patient warm, non-alcoholic beverages if they are conscious. And of course, get medical help as soon as possible.

Cold Weather Safety Tips

  • Minimize outside activities, particularly the elderly and very young. The increased exposure to the cold increases the demands on the body.  Older adults often make less body heat because of a slower metabolism and less physical activity. Check on elderly friends and neighbors often to make sure their homes are heated properly.

    If you are over 65 years of age, check the temperature in your home often during extremely cold weather.

  • Dress in layers. Several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single layer of heavy clothing.  Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Invest in a good brand of thermal underwear and layer beneath a turtleneck, topped with a wool sweater, then a long coat or fleece-lined parka. Try runners’ tights to wear underneath your pants, which will keep you even warmer than thermal underwear.  
  • Layer-up
  1. Inner Layer: Wear fabrics that will hold more body heat and don’t absorb moisture. Wool, silk, or polypropylene will hold more body heat than cotton.
  2. Insulation Layer: An insulation layer will help you retain heat by trapping air close to your body. Natural fibers, like wool, goose down, or a fleece work best.
  3. Outer Layer: The outermost layer helps protect you from wind, rain, and snow. It should be tightly woven, and preferably water and wind-resistant, to reduce the loss of body heat.
  • Wear the right gear. Our bodies prioritize keeping our organs warm, which means hands and feet are typically the first to feel the cold. Wear either wool-lined winter gloves or heavy mittens, and sturdy, waterproof boots, protecting your extremities. A hat is essential, preferably one that covers your ears. Cover your face and mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
  • Excessive exposure can lead to frostbite, which is damaging to body tissues.  Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, seek medical help immediately.
  • Do not leave pets outside during cold weather extremes. They need adequate shelter. In sub-zero temperatures, their paws, noses, and ears can succumb to frostbite.  Be sure to bring them inside. If you can’t bring them in your home, house them in a garage or basement with plenty of warm bedding.
  • Know the warning signs of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion.  If body temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek immediate medical care.
  • Be safe with heat sources. When using alternate heating sources, such as your fireplace, wood stove or space heater, take the necessary safety precautions to ensure they are ventilating properly.  Keep a fire extinguisher handy, and make sure everyone in the household knows how to use it. Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. You need to have chimneys and flues checked every few years for buildup.
  • Seal off unused rooms by stuffing rolled-up towels in the cracks under the doors. At night, cover windows with extra blankets or sheets. Consider installing an inexpensive insulating window film, which you can purchase at any hardware store or online.
  • Save the food. If you have a power outage for an extended period of time, don’t let food go to waste! Use the outdoors as a makeshift freezer for food. Be sure to cover items to protect from wildlife.
  • To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Allow a trickle of water to run from a faucet if your pipes have frozen in the past.  This will keep the water moving so that it cannot freeze.  Learn where and how to shut off your water if a pipe should burst.
  • Be a good neighbor. Check-in with elderly or disabled relatives and neighbors to ensure they are safe. Bring a blanket or coat with you in your car for an emergency and to give to anyone who may need help.

Infants and Toddlers

Infants less than one year old should never sleep in a cold room because they lose body heat more easily than adults. Follow these tips to keep your baby safe and warm during the extreme cold:

  • Remove any pillows or other soft bedding. These can increase the risk of smothering and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Dress babies in warmer clothing such as footed pajamas, one-piece wearable blankets, or sleep sacks.
  • Try to maintain a warm temperature inside your home. If you’re not able to keep your home warm, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere.
  • In an emergency, you can keep your baby warm using your own body heat. If you must sleep, take precautions to prevent rolling on or smothering your baby.
Avoid exerting yourself, and stay safe during cleanup.

Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. 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. Otherwise, if you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly to avoid excess sweating. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.

Visit Clean Up Safely After a Disaster for more information on safe cleanup after a disaster.

Find out more about how to prepare for extreme weather conditions at our Catastrophe resource center and stay protected from the cold weather and other natural disasters that can affect you and your home. Learn what damages homeowners insurance covers and how flood insurance can protect you in the case of a flood.

Regardless Of The Cold, Enjoy The Winter!

Finding fun things to do in the winter can be a challenge, especially for older kids and teenagers. The winter months can be long, dark, and boring.

Things to Do When You're Bored in the Winter

One of the best ways to help kids deal with winter boredom is to encourage them to be active with their friends. Seeing friends outside of school can also help build social skills. So let your child invite a friend over or plan a gathering with a group.

It can be a great time to practice specific social skills, like making a phone call (as opposed to just texting). Teach life lessons about friendship too, like the importance of reciprocating social invitations and being a good host.

Here are some ways your family can maintain healthy friendships during the winter:

  • Hold a board game or video game tournament
  • Let your teen plan and host a party
  • Host a movie marathon
  • Hold a slumber party
  • Participate in a fundraiser with friends 
  • Go ice skating
  • Go sledding
  • Go downhill cross-country skiing
  • Build a snowman
  • Build a snow fort
  • Have a snowball fight
  • Go on a winter hike
  • Go ice fishing
  • Go snow tubing
  • Play pond hockey.
  • Shovel snow for someone in need
  • Go winter camping as a family and learn survival skills
  • Hold a bonfire and let your teen invite friends over
  • Go snowshoeing
  • Go stargazing
  • Go on a winter photo scavenger hunt
  • Host a snow sculpture competition 
  • Learn how to do a new craft every week
  • Take turns picking online workout videos to do together as a family 
  • Cook a meal as a family with each member in charge of a different course
  • Read one book every week
  • Join a book club (or start one)
  • Go to an indoor water park
  • Visit a museum
  • Learn card tricks (or magic tricks)
  • Attend yoga classes
  • Plan a family vacation
  • Clean out clothes and household goods that are no longer wanted and donate them to charity or sell them online
  • Go swimming at an indoor pool
  • Take an art class
  • Join a gym
  • Watch a play
  • Babysit
  • Volunteer to read to younger children at the library
  • Build a website
  • Volunteer at your community food pantry, soup kitchen or church
  • Practice budgeting skills
  • Take an online class
  • Visit a college
  • Job shadow a professional
  • Start an online blog or business
  • Start filling out scholarship applications
  • Start a family challenge, as a weight loss challenge
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