With winter comes cold weather, snow, ice, and winter storms, which can lead to myriad injuries and danger both indoors and outdoors. Taking precautions is important for anyone who lives in an area affected by these weather conditions.
Reed Caldwell, MD, chief of service at NYU Langone’s Ronald O. Perelman Center for Emergency Services, speaks to CNN Health about health risks and tips to stay safe this winter. Be sure to check in on older relatives and friends to ensure their homes are adequately heated. Avoiding alcohol, which can make your body lose heat quicker; and never using grills, stoves, or similar devices for heat are important to remember when at home. Outdoors, hats, scarves, and gloves are a must when the temperature drops. Beware of ice while out on the roads, and take your time while shoveling snow, which can lead to back pain and injury.
“Snow shoveling is one example where we see people who have heart disease, or risk factors for heart disease, exerting themselves more than they may otherwise,” says Dr. Caldwell, also an assistant professor at the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Emergency Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. “Shoveling is hard work; people who have cardiac disease and back problems are at higher risk for injury or illness while shoveling,”
Asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms can also get worse in the winter. Covering your mouth and nose with a scarf while outside can alleviate problems. Frostbite is another concern, which happens when blood vessels narrow, skin temperature drops, and ice crystals form around and within your cells, causing damage.
“There’s a continuum of cold-related skin injury. The first is called ‘frostnip,’ and that is a cooling of the outermost skin tissue without any actual destruction to the tissue. You know this is happening because the skin can become discolored, sometimes bright red, and can look irritated and feel extra sensitive, and that’s a good warning sign that the skin is getting too cold,” Dr. Caldwell said.
“Then, frostbite involves actual skin destruction, and frostbitten skin usually appears pale, waxy, and can sometimes turn even purple or black as the tissue begins to die. Frostbitten skin can be numb or painless.”
Read more from CNN Health.