Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Winter Weather 2016

Enjoy Winter Weather and BE SAFE!!!

Until now, I was thinking that we might be able to go a winter without a reminder of these facts.  Temperatures in the 60's and 70's have given way to frigid temperatures and snow ... at least for a few days.  Old man winter just had to make his appearance.  With these conditions being unavoidable, there are a few steps that we can take to assure that everyone stays safe.


Ok, this may not be the biggest risk of the cold weather, but given out profession, and our patients, it is the most applicable, so we are leading off with it.  Shoveling can be a good workout if done by the correct person in the correct way.  Individuals over the age of 50 should take caution in shoveling.  Muscles that haven't been used in some time are being used and this particular form of exercise raises the heartrate as much, if not more than aerobic exercise.  Listen to your body, and monitor your heartrate.  Most people today have FitBits or some form.  Those people that don't, can simply count the amount of beats per minute with a watch.  Keep it below 130 just to be safe.  If you need to rest, rest.  Remember not to use sweat as an indication of exercise/work intensity.

Just like the previous article on raking, shoveling ... the bending and twisting motion ... is the absolute best way to injure your lumbar spine.  In addition to the motion, snow is heavy.  When you load this bending and twisting motion with weight, the risk increase exponentially.  Scoop and throw smaller amounts of snow, especially if it is wet.  If throwing snow, do so in front of you instead of behind you.  If you need to throw elsewhere, move your feet to accomplish that task.  Remember, prevention is easier than repair.

Cold weather has effects on us, and on our home.  First, let's talk about us ... Freezing temperatures effect the extremities first.  This is more important and frequently seen in children and the elderly.  Children don't have the blood volume and are overall, smaller in stature.  This means that waiting at the bus stop or playing outside in these conditions are more dangerous for them than an adult.  Fingers and toes get cold, but the numbness that follows can go unnoticed until the negative effects progress.  Frostbite is a reality, even more so when wind is part of the equation.  Make sure that children aren't outside too long in these temperatures.  Have them come inside for breaks to warm up.  They can always go back outside and continue where they left off.  If you can, allow them to wait inside for the bus, or wait with them in a vehicle.  Watch for discoloration, mainly white or blue on the nose, cheeks, fingers, and toes.  If these areas get too cold, be sure to warm them slowly and not immediately run them under warm water.  Returning blood flow too quickly can have negative side effects.

Similarly to our blood flow is the plumbing in our home.  Make sure that it doesn't drop too low in temperature either.  Leave your thermostat above 55 if you leave and make sure that cabinets under the sink are left open so that the air can heat these pipes.  This is especially important on exterior walls. 

Make sure that all furnaces are in working order, and have a couple of space heaters on hand in case of an emergency.

Keep in Contact

Keep in contact with your loved ones and make sure that they are ok.  Make sure that the elderly that can't get out have food and heat.  Call them on a regular basis to see if their needs change.  Make sure that they have their medications and know how to take them if they are without assistance.  If seniors need assistance, make sure that arrangements have been made for bad weather.  If you yourself are elderly, reach out.  Keep in touch and if for any reason you need help, call a loved one, or 911 if the situation requires it.


Last, but absolutely not least, are pets.  Yes, they are animals and many other animals are out in the cold 24/7, but they are prepared for it.  Don't leave pets out in the snow, ice, and subzero temperatures.  Have a place for them to take shelter, keep warm, and have food and water.  Domesticated animals cannot adjust to changing weather conditions the same as wild ones. 

Some of the aforementioned may seem obvious.  The issues may or may not apply to you, however if there is just one individual that this helps, it is worth it.  Pass it along.  Help do your part in keeping all safe and sound.

Oh, and sled safely too!!!