Stay Warm and Healthy in the Snow

Read these winter weather tips before you go out into the cold

What is it about a snowstorm that brings out the child in all of us? Suddenly we’re ready to bundle up and head outside to play. Plus, snow is great for a mid-winter workout, what with all the sledding, skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing you can do. Whether you’re out in the weather shoveling your walk, driving, or just making snow angels, follow our tips below to keep safe and warm.

1. Apply a Vaseline shield. If it’s cold and windy, your face may suffer a case of windburn. A thin coating of Vaseline on exposed skin — particularly your cheeks, nose, chin, ears, and neck — will help prevent it.

2. Don’t walk with your hands in your pockets. It’s pretty basic advice, but this way, you can use your arms to regain your balance if you slip.

3. Buy a pair of Yaktrax. These amazing rubber and wire devices slip over the bottom of your boots and help prevent you from slipping on the ice. (Even see a yak slip and fall? We didn’t think so.) They are available at sporting goods stores and on the Internet.

4. Remember snow’s first cousin: ice. So wear rubber-soled boots with good traction, go slowly, don’t carry too many packages, and give yourself extra travel time to get wherever you’re going, whether that’s on foot or by car.

5. Look for patches of white or pale gray, waxy-textured skin. These are signs of frostbite. Get indoors and get immediate medical attention.

6. It might look silly, but pull large rubber dishwashing gloves over woolen gloves. This will keep your gloves dry whether you’re shoveling snow or making snowballs.

7. Make sure your boots aren’t too tight, either because they’re too small or because you’ve stuffed them with too many pairs of bulky socks. You won’t have enough blood circulating to your feet and they’ll get even colder. Wool or polypropylene socks are a good choice for your feet.

8. Smear on some sunscreen and lip balm if you’re out in the snow on sunny days. And slip on a pair of sunglasses or goggles to protect your eyes from the snow’s glare. A sunny day in winter is often brighter and more dangerous to your eyes than the same sun in summer, thanks to the reflection off ice and snow.

9. Dress in layers, and make your first layer a shirt or long underwear made of synthetic microfibers, such as polypropylene. These wick sweat away from the body so you don’t get too chilled. Avoid cotton, which gets wet and stays wet. Top your first layer with a fleece top and then a windproof jacket.

10. Equip your car for driving in snowy conditions. That means cleaning snow off the car before you start driving, making sure your windshield wipers work well, cleaning off your headlights, and using snow tires or chains if you need them. And stock your trunk with a shovel, tow rope, ground sheet (for fitting chains), rubber gloves, plastic ice scraper, blanket, and flashlight.

11. If you’re not in shape to shovel, hire a neighborhood kid to do it for you. Shoveling snow is very strenuous work. People who should think twice before doing it are those with a history of heart disease, heart attack, or high blood pressure.

12. Stretch for five minutes and walk outside for 5-10 minutes before you start shoveling. Here are some other shoveling tips:

  • Drink plenty of water so that you’re well hydrated. Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol, or use nicotine products immediately before shoveling.
  • Shovel early and often. Newly fallen snow is lighter than heavily packed or partially melted snow. And starting out early allows you extra time to take frequent breaks.
  • Take your time. Never remove deep snow all at once. Shovel a layer that’s an inch or two thick and then take off another inch or two.
  • Pick the right shovel. A smaller blade will require you to lift less snow, putting less strain on your body.
  • Protect your back with good shoveling technique. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart for balance, and keep the shovel close to your body. Bend from the knees, not the back, and tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the snow. Avoid twisting movements. If you need to move the snow to one side, reposition your body so your feet face the direction the snow will be going. Always throw the snow in front of you, not over your shoulder.
  • Listen to your body. If you experience any shortness of breath, dizziness, or chest discomfort, stop immediately and seek medical care.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest