A fresh snowfall can bring a hush over any landscape and, temporarily at least, create a perfect picture scene. As idyllic as such landscapes can be, snow-covered sledding hills can pose various threats to outdoor lovers’ health and safety.
Frostbite occurs when the soft tissues of the body start to freeze. It most commonly affects the fingers, toes and nose. Single-digit Fahrenheit temperatures are cold enough to cause frostbite. Frostbite affects skin cells and tissues and can cause severe damage. Frostbitten skin turns black as cells die from freezing. Numbness and a painful feeling of “pins and needles” occur in areas exposed to cold or cold water for too long. Dressing appropriately for the weather, limiting time spent outdoors in very cold temperatures and maintaining strong blood flow can reduce the risk for frostbite.
Winter weather can lead to slippery conditions. Falls on snow, ice or wet floors are common. When walking, wear shoes with sufficient traction, avoid icy patches and invest in walking poles or microspikes. Promptly wipe up melting puddles in the home to avoid slipping inside as well.
Winter activities may include skating or fishing on a frozen body of water. But it can be challenging to determine just how frozen a lake or a pond might be. Safety experts advise against going onto the ice alone. Heed any thin ice signs posted. If you fall through the ice, try to gain a grip to pull yourself up, ice picks are a good investment and spread out on your belly once you get out of the water. Anyone who ventures onto the ice can carry a whistle to signal for help, which is louder than yelling. Hypothermia sets in within 10 to 15 minutes, so acting fast is key. Ropes, boogie boards, a spare tire and other items also can be used to save someone from ice without going onto the ice itself.
The lack of sun and short winter days can affect individuals’ mental wellness. Those with seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, find winter a challenge. SAD surfaces in late autumn or early winter and may not subside until early summer. Make time to get outdoors, even when it’s cold, to take advantage of at least 30 minutes of morning light. Doing so can improve mood. Exercise and find ways to engage in social activities to curb depressive feelings. Do not turn to food or alcohol to address depression.
Winter brings great beauty but also potential hazards that should be kept in mind and addressed.