Surviving the winter months

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Dec. 3, 2014

By Vesna Brajkovic

Wisconsin winters come and go, and each one always feels like the worst one yet. But as temperatures slowly drop, winter quietly creeps up. Below are tips on how to beat the cold by keeping warm, healthy and safe while you brave the winter elements.

 

Tips for keeping warm

University of Health and Counseling Services medical assistant Donna Williams said students can do a few things  to stay warm and keep safe, although most of them may seem like common sense.

  • “Dress in layers to shield any exposed skin,” Williams said. “Anything exposed to the extreme cold and wind can lead to frostbite.” Frostbite is caused by freezing and results in loss of feeling and color to the affected areas. Warning signs of frostbite are white or grayish-yellow skin area, a firm or waxy feel and numbness. If frostbite is discovered, keep the affected area tight against a warm part of the body and seek medical attention.
  • Wear an outer layer that is tightly woven and wind resistant. Wool, silk, polyester and fleece are good fabrics to hold in body heat.
  • Stay dry. Wear waterproof boots, a hat, gloves and a scarf to prevent heat loss.
  • Avoid staying outside for long periods of time and take shelter in a building whenever possible.

 

Tips for keeping healthy and safe

‘Tis the season for everyone around you to have a terrible cold. Avoid having to drag yourself out of bed for class with a bright red nose and a pocket full of used tissues by following the tips below.

  • Wash hands frequently to avoid getting sick.
  • Cough into your elbow to avoid the spread of germs.
  • Eat and drink substances containing vitamin C to keep your immune system strong.
  • Stay active to keep the blood flowing, but don’t push  it.
  • Avoid over exertion while outside, especially while shoveling snow. Cold weather can cause  added strain on the heart.

 

Tips for driving safe

Learning to drive in winter conditions is a skill you can only gain from experience, and living in Wisconsin means you’ll have a lot of time to practice.

“Road conditions deteriorate quickly with colder temperatures,” UW-Whitewater police officer Stephen Hanekamp said in an email. “Citizens don’t always realize how road conditions change and continue to drive as if roads are clear.”

Here are a few guidelines to follow if you find yourself having to take a drive.

  • Clear all the snow off of the car before driving.
  • Check road conditions before leaving the house by visiting www.511wi.gov or by calling Wisconsin 511.
  • Limit unnecessary driving in dangerous conditions.
  • Drive slow and break carefully.
  • Pay attention to the situation around you and look ahead in traffic. Accidents out of your control can happen easily in winter conditions.
  • Keep your distance. Stay at least 200 feet behind maintenance vehicles and plows.
  • Keep at least half a tank of gas in your car to prevent the gas line from freezing.
  • Have an emergency kit handy, including a blanket, extra clothes, a jumper cable, a first aid kit, a shovel, a flashlight, a windshield scraper and sand or cat litter for extra traction.
  • Don’t get overconfident in four-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive will not allow you to stop quicker, and  can lose traction just as quickly as two-wheel drive cars.

 

These tips have been compiled from the University Health and Counseling Services, the University Police Department, the UW-Whitewater Administrative Affairs and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.