Are you ready for the snow? Mother nature is about to let a significant amount of snow loose on Eastern New York (as well as good portion of the rest of the country)! With a storm on its way, the American Red Cross wants to remind everyone to be aware of the health concerns you may encounter both BEFORE and AFTER a significant winter storm. Follow the steps below to stay safe during the winter season and enjoy your favorite (and not-so-favorite…cough, cough, shoveling) winter activities.

Eat regularly. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat!

Drink water. Keep your body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration.

Watch out for others. Check in on relatives, friends and neighbors, especially if they are elderly or live alone.

If You Must Go Outside During Winter Weather:

  • Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens or gloves and a hat will prevent the loss of body heat.
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air. Avoid taking deep breaths; minimize talking.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses much of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly away from the body.
  • Stretch! If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This will reduce your chances of muscle injury.
  • Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks. Slips and falls occur frequently in winter weather, resulting in painful and sometimes disabling injuries.

Watch for Signs of Hypothermia and Frostbite:

Tingling or loss of feeling can be early signs of frostnip or frostbite. If you suspect you or someone else has been affected by frostbite, perform the following steps:

What to do for frostbite:

  1. Move the person to a warm place.
  2. Handle the area gently; never rub the affected area.
  3. Warm gently by soaking the affected area in warm water until it appears red and feels warm.
  4. Loosely bandage the area with dry, sterile dressings.
  5. If the person’s fingers or toes are frostbitten, place dry, sterile gauze between them to keep them separated.
  6. Avoid breaking any blisters.
  7. Do not allow the affected area to refreeze.
  8. Seek professional medical care as soon as possible.

One of the biggest threats to your health during the winter months is hypothermia. Be alert to the following signs in yourself and others, and catch hypothermia early—while it is still treatable.

Signs of hypothermia:

  • Shivering
  • Numbness or weakness
  • Glassy stare
  • Apathy or impaired judgment
  • Loss of consciousness

What to do for hypothermia:

  1. CALL 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
  2. Gently move the person to a warm place.
  3. Monitor breathing and circulation.
  4. Give rescue breathing and CPR if needed.
  5. Remove any wet clothing and dry the person.
  6. Warm the person slowly by wrapping in blankets or by putting dry clothing on the person.

Hot water bottles and chemical hot packs may be used when first wrapped in a towel or blanket before applying. Do not warm the person too quickly, such as by immersing him or her in warm water. Warm the core first (trunk, abdomen), not the extremities (hands, feet).

Protect Your Heart When Shoveling Snow:

For people with existing heart conditions like heart failure, high blood pressure or cholesterol, the increased workload on the heart from activities such as shoveling of heavy snow, can put them at higher risk for heart attack.  Talk to your physician before you start shoveling, particularly if you have a medical condition, do not exercise regularly or are middle-aged or older.

Check out these posts from Popular Science, Forbes, and the Cleveland Clinic for more about shoveling-related risks and ways to stay safe.

Get First Aid Advice at Your Fingertips:

The FREE Red Cross First Aid App provides expert advice on how to treat common first aid emergencies, including frostbite and hypothermia. It’s a free and easy way to get first aid guidance and emergency information anytime, anywhere. Download now in your app store by searching “American Red Cross” or visit