Oliver: Layer up to face what could be a long winter

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

What a way to start 2018. Is it just me, or isn’t this bone-chilling, face-stinging, finger-numbing, below-zero nonsense supposed to arrive for about one week in mid- to late January and then disappear for another year?

Any sooner and it makes the winter seem all that much more foreboding. Any later, and it makes the winter seem endless. It just about broke my will when it came in early March a few years back. That seemed to be cruel piling on. Enough already.

So there’s no telling what the winter has in store for us this year, since this ridiculous cold snap didn’t even wait until 2017 ended to show up.

With that in mind, it’s probably a good idea to go over some safety strategies for when the mercury finds itself living in the single digits and below.

The American Red Cross offers this advice for protecting yourself against the cold:

• Dress in layers of lightweight clothing. They will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat.

• Mittens are warmer than gloves. Wear a hat, preferably one that covers the ears. (That means baseball caps aren’t all that helpful.)

• Wear waterproof, insulated boots. They keep your feet warm and dry, and help you maintain footing on snow and ice. (Cute shoes can be put on at your destination. Everyone else is too busy trying not to slip to admire them. Besides, road salt is not good for them.)

• When working or playing outside, take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.

• Seek immediate medical attention if you show signs of hypothermia, which include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion or severe shivering.

• Also seek medical attention immediately if you show signs of frostbite, which include numbness; skin discoloration that is flushed gray, white, blue or yellow; or waxy-feeling skin.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also points out that we need to watch out for infants younger than a year old because they lose body heat more easily than adults. They also can’t make enough body heat when they shiver.

That means that infants need to be kept in warm clothing. Never let them sleep in a cold room, but remember that pillows and other soft bedding can pose a risk of smothering; keep them away from where a baby sleeps.

We also need to pay attention to our older adults because they, too, are susceptible to the cold. They often make less body heat because of a slower metabolism and less activity.

Make it a practice to check in with elderly family members and friends to make sure their homes are adequately heated. They also shouldn’t be trying to use a stove, oven or other unsafe means to keep warm.

More tips also can be found online at

Let’s not forget our furry friends, too. Remember to bring in any pets as the temperatures drop. They may have fur, but their extremities are just as susceptible to the cold as ours are.

Who knows how much of this near-record cold we’re going to have to deal with before spring finally arrives. The optimist in me hopes that once we get past this current cold snap, we’ll be in the clear. The realist knows it’s still a long way until April.

I’d say March, but I learned my lesson on that one a couple of years back.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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