Stay safe in the cold

When temperatures turn frigid in the winter, you should only be outside if you absolutely have to, and limit the amount of time you’re outdoors. Here's what you need to know to stay safe in the cold.


If you stay outside for too long, you could develop frostbite. Here are a few things you should know about frostbite and how you can stay safe.

What is frostbite?  

Frostbite is an injury that can occur in extreme cold. Body tissues become frozen, and permanent damage can occur. The most commonly affected areas are the nose, ears, fingers, toes, cheeks and chin.

Children and seniors are most at risk for frostbite.

How can you avoid frostbite?

The most important way to avoid frostbite is to dress in layers. It’s the best way to retain body heat.

For your hands, mittens are better than gloves because they keep your hands warmer. It’s also a good idea to wear an extra pair of socks.

Hats and scarves help warm the head, ears and neck. Insulated winter boots with a tread can keep your feet warm and provide traction on ice and snow.

You should also drink plenty of fluids in cold weather to avoid dehydration.

What should you do if frostbite occurs?

If you notice skin becoming red or numb, seek medical attention right away. You can also do the following:

  • Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
  • Cover the frostbitten area with warm blankets.
  • Do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes to avoid more serious damage.
  • Immerse the affected areas into warm (not hot) water.
  • Do not use anything hot, such as a heating pad, stove or furnace, to warm the affected area. If these areas are numb, they may burn easily because of a lack of sensation.
  • Gently wash, dry and wrap the affected area in sterile bandages.
  • Ask your doctor about using an oral antibiotic or topical ointment.

Safe shoveling

The combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion may increase the risk of a heart attack during snow shoveling. To help keep you safe and minimize risk, we recommend the following precautions:

  • Individuals over the age of 55, or those who are relatively inactive, should be especially careful.
  • If you have heart trouble, do not shovel without a doctor's permission.
  • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking.
  • Pace yourself. Be sure to stretch out and warm up just like you would before any exercise.
  • Push the snow as you shovel, do not pick up too much at once. Lift with your legs bent, not your back.
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion. If you run out of breath, take a break. 

Also, it's important to know the warnings signs of heart attack. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. If you experience any of the warning signs below, please contact emergency medical services immediately.

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Like men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Page last updated: 5/5/2017 12:31:17 PM