Winter Sucks: Staying safe in the cold season

The Exponent’s own Kelsey Crosby gives advice on how to survive the Wisconsin winter

Winter. A time for all of your cold woes to come to fruition. Will I get sick? Probably. Will I have to deal with snow? Of course you will because this is Wisconsin. Will I have to deal with ice? Chances of that are high. What about frostbite, hypothermia or potentially getting my car stuck in snow? That’s possible. Most people who grew up in the cold weather are aware of the dangers of winter and know how to avoid them. However, not everyone attending UW-Platteville is from a cold weather climate, and sometimes people just get careless. So, I decided to grace The Exponent with my thoughts on ways to prevent winter woes  because winter is truly the worst.

Wear clothing and outer garments to cover your skin as much as possible. I mean pants—NOT shorts—socks, shirts, sweaters, gloves, coats, sneakers—but preferably boots—and hats. Why risk exposing your skin to the harsh elements of winter? I’ll tell you why you shouldn’t. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, twice the amount of people die from winter weather than from summer weather.

You could get hypothermia, where you have a low body temperature and your cognitive functions become impaired, or frostbite, where a part of your body is freezing and permanently damages that part of your body. Both can cause permanent damage and kill you. What do you do if you have either? With hypothermia, according to the Center for Disease Control, you should bring that person somewhere warm, remove their clothing if wet and warm up the center area of their body. If they’re conscious, give them warm drinks—no alcohol—and get them medical attention as soon as possible. Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation is recommended if the hypothermic person is unresponsive or seems dead. For frostbite, you need to get to a warm room, immerse area in warm water or body heat (hot temperatures can cause permanent nerve damage) and warm up slowly to avoid any damage.

If you’re going outside, avoid alcohol. According to the CDC, you may feel warmer but you’re actually losing body heat much faster and putting yourself at risk for hypothermia. You might as well roll around in a puddle of slushy ice, snow and freezing water.

Here are some facts from that may convince you to err on the side of caution: Over 116,000 people in the U.S. are injured and more than 1,300 are killed on snowy, slushy or icy roads every winter. Approximately 1,301 Americans die from hypothermia annually. [One million] Americans are injured due to slip and fall injuries annually. The risk of slip and fall injuries increases dramatically during winter months.

Avoid being outside for long periods of time and try to take breaks to warm yourself up every 20-30 minutes. If you need to drive a vehicle, have some cat litter in the back seat. If you get stuck in snow, you can always use your snow scraper or hands to shovel yourself mostly out of the snow. Sprinkle some cat litter by your tires and it’ll help create enough traction that you are able to get out of the snow. Mostly, avoid being outside, driving, or doing anything that involves being cold. You can carry hand warmers or even create some reusable ones if you want to prolong your little visit into the vast cold of winter. There’s a ton of online tutorials. You can even use an old t-shirt if you don’t have pieces of cloth hanging around. Granted, you may need to learn how to sew a quick stitch or two, but that is a skill that can be used for the rest of your life.

You don’t have to spend a ton of money to stay warm. The local thrift stores also provide cheap winter clothing and sometimes boots so check them out. That being said, buy pants if you really don’t have any, because shorts are asking for frostbite. Wear pants to protect yourself from winter.