Experts offer tips on winter livingThe colder weather means taking more precautions, both for health and safety, officials say.
By: By Jessica Larsen, La Crosse Tribune, Wis., Superior Telegram
The snow has finally fallen, and the thick coats, mittens and scarfs are out.
The colder weather means taking more precautions, both for health and safety, officials say.
Cold and flu
You can't protect yourself, and especially not your children during school hours, from all germs, said Dr. Stephanie Niec of Gundersen Lutheran's Onalaska Clinic.
Therefore, wash hands often.
With 25 million people going to the doctor every year nationwide for a cold, it's "somewhat unavoidable," said Dr. Thomas Gahl with Family Medicine at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.
"In any public place, you're basically at risk," he said. "The most you can do is maintain good hygiene."
The flu, however, is seen a little less frequently. So if someone has it, maintain a distance. It's contagious a day or two before symptoms show and up to another 10 after they start.
If you do get sick, though, stick to plenty of fluids and rest. Put a humidifier in the room and slightly elevate your head while sleeping.
Officials aren't sure yet how bad this year's flu and cold season will be. The first documented case of the flu was confirmed a week ago.
Shoveling and other physical activity
Listen to your body while shoveling, advises Jessica Boland, wellness education specialist at Gundersen Lutheran in La Crosse.
Start slowly, moving small chunks of snow at a time. Bend at the knees and lift with the legs. If someone isn't used to the often vigorous activity, injury is more likely, she said.
Be sure to take breaks and stand up straight.
When exercising outside, wear boots or shoes that have soles with traction to help prevent falling, Boland said. Watch out for ice and snow. Not everyone salts their sidewalk on the same schedule.
And keep hydrated, just like during the summer.
Frostbite usually happens on skin most often exposed to the cold elements: ears, fingers, toes, nose and cheeks.
When those body parts start to go numb and tingle, it's time to head inside, Niec said.
Frostbite also causes skin to go pale.
If you get it, use blankets or body heat to slowly warm up.
When dressing to go outside, wear layers of loose fitting clothing, as tighter clothes hold in moisture. Don't leave skin uncovered.
Winter pet care
A general rule is if it's too cold for you to be outside, it is for animals as well, said Heather Schmid, executive director of Coulee Region Humane Society.
If you can't bring the animal inside, here are some tips to keep Fido warm:
--Provide a dry, draft-free, insulated doghouse. The floor should be covered with bedding and raised at least a few inches off the ground. The doorway should face away from the wind and be covered with a weatherproof material.
--Change drinking water several times a day or use heated stock buckets to prevent freezing.
--Keep paws free of salt and sand.
After parking your car outside for the night, the heat of the engine can sometimes attract stray animals, which will hide under the hood for warmth.
Turning the car on the next day can injure or kill the animals, often without the driver knowing.
To prevent that, lightly tap your hood in the morning to scare any animals away.
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