Winter Weather Hazards: Frostbite, Hypothermia, Dehydration, Heart Attack

Since a lot of us have been experiencing winter storms this week, I thought I’d share some information about winter weather hazards.  This  video gives a good summary of preventing frostbite and hypothermia, the symptoms of each, and what to do if you or someone around you experiences symptoms.

The video covers frostbite and hypothermia pretty thoroughly, but there are a few other common winter health hazards that it doesn’t mention.

Dehydration: Most people pay close attention to drinking enough water in summer, but dehydration can occur in winter too. Because the air is so dry, you loose water when you breathe and warm layers can cause you to sweat as much as you would in warmer weather.  Because the air is colder, you’re also less likely to feel thirsty, so make sure you’re drinking water regularly even if you don’t feel like it!Click here for a more detailed article on winter dehydration.

Heart Attacks While Shoveling Snow: I couldn’t find any information on whether or not farmers (who are more used to physical labor in all weathers) have the same increased risk of heart attacks while shoveling as the general population, but it’s worth mentioning that performing physical labor in cold weather can increase the risk of heart attack.  This is because of a combination of blood vessels contracting due to the cold and an increase of blood pressure due to physical exertion.  If you’re shoveling snow, or doing any other physically demanding job in the cold weather, you might want to  take more frequent breaks or break the task into smaller loads/pieces if possible. This is especially true if you already have heart or blood pressure issues. Signs of a heart attack include lightheadedness, dizziness, being short of breath, or if you have tightness or burning in chest, neck, arms or back. If you think you might be having a heart attack, call 911 right away!  Click here to see an article about winter heart attacks.