The warmer spring, summer, and fall seasons have a way of making you forget those bone-chilling temps of winter—until the first day of winter rears its frosty head once again. Before you know it, the temperature’s plunged to face-hurting degrees and snow is piling up on your driveway, making you late for work.
Despite its fluffy, white innocent facade, snow can be really dangerous if you’re not careful. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 7,000 people died from hypothermia (a life-threatening condition where your body loses heat faster than it can produce it) or exposure to cold from 2006 to 2010. Not to mention all the slippery, icy sidewalks and risks associated with snow shoveling.
Can you confidently say you’re 100% cold-weather safety savvy? If not, here’s a quick snow day safety refresher course, so you can stay happy, healthy and safe this winter.
1. Layer up in synthetic fibers or wool. These fabrics are better insulators and keep you drier than cotton, which will help you stay warm. Even better? Layer up. Wearing two to three layers traps air in between the fabrics, giving you more insulation (and coziness).
2. Get the right shoes. If you buy or wear the wrong pair, you risk not feeling your toes (not fun) or slipping, sliding, or falling all over the icy pavement (double not fun). Do yourself a favor: Invest in waterproof boots with non-skid soles. You’ll thank yourself later.
3. Put away your phone while walking. No text conversation is that important. To prevent falls, it’s important to make sure steps and walkways are clear before you walk. If your head is down and your attention is focused on sending your sister that hilarious meme you can’t stop laughing about, you could miss the black ice below you and slip. Plus, you need free hands to hold onto railings or catch yourself if you do. If you must text, stop walking and pause, and then continue walking after you hit send.
4. Walk like a penguin. As silly as it may sound (or look) to walk like chilly willy, it’s a great way to prevent falls. Extend your arms to help you keep your balance, and take short steps or shuffle for more stability.
5. Keep an eye on your skin color. Pale skin—along with other signs like weakness, slurred speech, or slowed breathing or pulse—is a sign of hypothermia. If you suspect hypothermia in yourself or someone you know, call 9-1-1 ASAP.