Snow-covered boy brushes snow off a car


Polar plunge: It's going to be how cold?

Winter is in full force and bringing some harsh temperatures with it. Even if you're not new to single-digit and below zero weather, it's critical to remember just how damaging, and sometimes even fatal, extreme cold temperatures can be. Here are a few tips to help keep you and your loved ones warm and safe. 

Frostbite – it happens when skin and tissue beneath the skin freezes. This should be taken seriously because affected areas may need to be surgically removed if the frostbite is serious enough. The best tip to prevent frostbite is of course to stay inside with a cup of hot chocolate or tea. However, if you're a winter sports enthusiast, or need to be outside, keep this in mind:  

  • single-digit temperatures combined with wind chill can cause frostbite in 30 minutes or less. If colder and windier, it can be 10 minutes or less
  • frostbite is more likely to occur when skin isn't covered
  • people with poor circulation, or cannot feel the effects of cold are more susceptible to frostbite; this includes older individuals, people with diabetes, or those who smoke or abuse alcohol
  • limit time outside especially during the coldest parts of the day
  • dress in loose, warm layers
  • wear a hat or headband
  • cover exposed skin (don't forget about ears)
  • wear mittens because they are warmer than gloves
  • wear a scarf to protect your mouth and lungs
  • look for early signs of frostbite (red or pale skin, prickling, and numbness) 
  • get indoors and seek medical attention if you suspect frostbite

Hypothermia – it occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Seek medical attention if you experience these signs of hypothermia:

  • intense shivering
  • slurred speech
  • drowsiness
  • heart is beating faster than usual, or beating slow and out of rhythm
  • blue or gray colored skin

Car travel – just like people, cars don't always respond well in frigid temperatures either. Before heading out on the road, include these tips in your planning:

  • fully charge a cell phone before you leave
  • fill up your gas tank
  • clean windshields, windows and head and tail lights to ensure visibility
  • check windshield wipers and tires
  • pack a winter survival kit: jumper cables; flashlights; first aid supplies; your cell phone car charger; food/water (non-perishable food); bright-colored flag or cloth; basic tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver); radio (battery-powered); cat litter/sand (for better tire traction); shovel, ice scraper; warm clothes and blankets
  • tell someone where you are going and your travel route
  • stay with your vehicle if you get stuck; if car is running, slightly open a window since carbon monoxide can build up if the exhaust is blocked by snow

Pets and other animals – don't forget your furry friends need extra protection too.

If you decide to play in the winter wonderland, being safe in the colder temperatures just takes a little preparation.


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Having fun and staying safe in a Minnesota winter

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