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Health

Tips for keeping safe when the weather is bitterly cold

As temperatures will continue to drop for the rest of the week, the American Red Cross has winter safety tips.
As temperatures will continue to drop for the rest of the week, the American Red Cross has winter safety tips.

The weather is turning dangerously cold for residents of the Chicago area and Northern Illinois, including the Joliet area.

As temperatures will continue to drop for the rest of the week, the American Red Cross has winter safety tips:

Out in the cold:

• Be aware of the wind chill. Avoid staying in the cold too long.

• Wear layers of clothing to stay warm, along with a hat, mittens and waterproof, insulated boots to keep feet warm and dry. Avoid unnecessary exposure of any part of the body to the cold.

• Be careful when tackling strenuous tasks like shoveling snow in cold temperatures. Take frequent breaks from the cold.

• Drink plenty of warm fluids or warm water but avoid caffeine and alcohol.

• Get out of the cold immediately if the signs of hypothermia and frostbite appear.

• Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.

At home:

• Bring family pets indoors. If that’s not possible, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they can get to unfrozen water.

• Prevent frozen pipes. Open cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around water pipes. Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes.

• Do not use a stove or oven to heat the home. Keep a glass or metal fire screen around the fireplace and never leave a fireplace fire unattended.

• If using a space heater, place it on a level, hard, nonflammable surface. Turn the space heater off when leaving the room or going to sleep. Keep children and pets away from the space heater and do not use it to dry wet clothing.

• If the power goes out, use generators correctly. Never operate a generator inside the home, including the basement or garage. Do not hook up a generator directly to the home's wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment needed directly to the outlets on the generator.

On the road:

• Stay off the road during severe weather, if possible.

• Carry an emergency preparedness kit in the trunk.

• Keep the car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.

• Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.

• Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.

• Don’t pass snow plows.

• Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.

If you do become stranded:

• Stay in the vehicle and wait for help. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards (91 meters). You can quickly become disoriented and confused in blowing snow.

• Display a trouble sign to indicate you need help. Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the hood after snow stops falling.

• Run the engine occasionally to keep warm. Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour (or five minutes every half hour) and use the heater. This reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and conserves fuel. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and slightly open a downwind window for ventilation.

• Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.

• Do light exercises to keep up circulation. Clap your hands and move your arms and legs occasionally. Try not to stay in one position for too long.

• If more than one person is in the vehicle, take turns sleeping. If you are not awakened periodically to increase body temperature and circulation, you can freeze to death.

• Huddle together for warmth. Use newspapers, maps, and even the removable floor mats for added insulation. Layering items will help trap more body heat.

• Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Severe cold can cause numbness, making you unaware of possible danger.

• Drink fluids to avoid dehydration, which can make you more susceptible to the ill effects of cold and to heart attacks.

• Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Shoveling snow or pushing a vehicle can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse.

For more tips, visit redcross.org.

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