Winter is well underway! Much of our country is enjoying beautiful, snow-covered landscapes. Families are bundling up to take in the cold, crisp air. And sports-enthusiasts are sledding, snowboarding and skiing while they still can. In the midst of all this winter fun, it can be easy to forget the hidden concerns of cold weather, especially for those of us who work or spend significant time in the elements. That’s why our industrial hygienists are highlighting the top issues to be aware of this winter season:

•Heart attacks: As the Harvard Medical School recently pointed out, cold weather is a vasoconstrictor. This means that when the temperature drops, our blood vessels narrow—raising our risk of heart attack. Older individuals need to be especially careful, as it can be even harder to regulate their body temperatures. To protect against heart issues when working or spending time outside, take regular breaks and wear the proper protective gear such as scarves, gloves and insulated boots.

•Carbon monoxide poisoning: Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause serious illnesses or death if inhaled. You can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by installing or keeping carbon monoxide monitors in your workplaces or homes up-to-date; ensuring heaters and fireplaces are functioning properly; and not running cars in garages or staying in running, snow-bound cars. For more prevention tips, visit the CDC’s website.

•Cold weather injuries: From shoveling snow to walking on ice, there are many pitfalls to be aware of during the winter months. Prevent cold weather injuries such as exhaustion, dehydration and back injuries by taking it easy, warming up before starting any vigorous activities (i.e., shoveling snow) and wearing the proper gear (i.e., boots with rubber treads). If working with powered equipment like a snow blower, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration recommends that the equipment be properly grounded to prevent any electric shocks or electrocutions.

•Seasonal illnesses: The common cold and flu are highly contagious, especially during winter months when individuals are spending more time indoors with family and friends. You can prevent these illnesses by getting the flu shot, properly washing your hands and staying away from those who are sick. With low temperatures outside, you should also watch out for cold stree, which can cause chilblains, frostbite, hypothermia and trench foot. 

Want more information about winter weather concerns? Share your questions or comments for our industrial hygienists on CTEH’s Facebook.