Some people look forward to the first snowfall in much the same way as a child on Christmas morning. There is something about the first glimmers of white that is intoxicating. Not everyone agrees, of course, but if winter is your season, your time is here.

As beautiful as winter can be, however, it is also dangerous, especially for those of us living in the Midwest. Understanding the realities of winter can help prevent injury, illness, and even death. The National Safety Council suggests the following tips for keeping you and your family safe during the winter months.

Vehicles

We spend a great deal of time in our vehicles, especially those that travel during the holidays. Winterizing your vehicle before traveling even small distances can keep you and your family safe.

Always check the weather before departure. Know the forecast for your area and plan accordingly. Trying to “beat” the weather can result in finding yourself in dangerous situations that are often undrivable. If bad weather is looming, consider leaving early or even postponing your plans.

Enlist the help of a mechanic. Allowing a trained professional to give your car the once-over can prevent mechanical failure. Have your antifreeze level and freeze line, tires, brakes, belts, and battery checked before the temperature drops and the snow starts piling up.

Understand the conditions. Experts recommend avoiding your cruise control during the winter, accelerating and decelerating slowly, giving yourself extra time to stop (especially in icy conditions), steering into the direction you want to go when sliding, and keeping your gas tank at least half full.

Be prepared for anything. Always keep a properly inflated spare time and jack in your car, as well as a shovel, jumper cables, bag of salt or cat litters, tool kit, first aid kit, reflective triangles or flares, ice scraper and snowbrush, extra clothes (including hats and gloves), and non-perishable, high energy foods, such as hard candy or nuts. Don’t brave the elements unless you are ready for any situation.

Snow Shoveling

Snow removal is a necessary evil during winter. That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to put your health in jeopardy. If you are unable to remove snow on your own, hire someone to help you. If you do plan on taking care of the snow shoveling/blowing duties, keep the following tips in mind.

Avoid straining and listen to your body. Hundreds of people die from heart attacks during the winter, many of them due to snow shoveling. Listen to your body and stop if you are feeling exhausted or in pain of any sort.

Push rather than lift. The worst thing you can do for your back is to lift and throw heavy shovels of snow. Push the snow as much as you can. If you must lift, do so with your legs and not your back.

Know your limits. Do not work to the point of exhaustion. If you must break the snow shoveling into manageable sections, do so. Understand your body and know when it is time to stop or rest.

Protecting your body.

Low temperatures can take a toll on your body very quickly. Protecting your skin is essential, especially in frigid temperatures.

Bundle up in layers of loose clothing. Dressing in multiple layers will protect your body’s temperature while giving you the opportunity to remove layers when inside.

Keep your ears covered. Stocking hats may do little for your hair style, but it will do wonders for your core temperature. If you refuse to wear a hat, consider earmuffs or other ways of keeping your ears warm.

Wear mittens and not gloves. Although gloves may be more functional, they are not the best way to keep your hands warm. Keeping your fingers together enables them to share heat, which will in turn result in warmer hands.

Wear good socks. Keeping your feet warm and dry is an important way to prevent frostbite. If you must wear dress shoes or high heels for work, consider donning boots or other weather-friendly apparel during travel and changing footwear after you arrive at your destination.

By Jamee Larson