OK, Treasure Valley, chances are you’re a little sick of the cold snap we’ve been having. And, sorry to burst your bubble, but it looks like it will continue. Highs in the teens and low 20s and lows in single digits have become the norm, at least for now, since we’ve got another inversion building up over the valley. The average high this time of year is around 37 degrees, and the average low is 25. That means we’re dealing with a good 15 to 25 degrees colder temperatures.
If you’re wondering how the colder weather might affect your health, here’s what you need to know.
- First and foremost, taking good care of yourself when the weather is cold is essential. If you take a multivitamin, be sure you keep up that daily habit. Drink lots of fluids and get alot of sleep. Though we all know that cold weather doesn’t cause the common cold, being out in freezing temperatures for extended periods can make us feel run down, sluggish, and, well, just sickening. Of course, these steps are essential no matter the weather, but they are especially critical at this time of year when chilly temperatures show no sign of letting up, and everyone at the office or your child’s school seems to be fighting some bug.
- Get up a little earlier. We all need extra time to get to work when the roads are snowy and icy. But don’t forget that you need spare time with the blow dryer, so you’re not going out with wet hair. Set up that coffee pot and make your lunch the night before, so you’re not rushing. This also means getting to bed a little earlier to ensure you get enough sleep.
- Always wear layers. Your mom was right. When the weather is cold, you’ll stay warmer in several layers of clothing than in one thick layer. That’s because layers keep your body heat circulating between them, but like a chunky sweater, one thick layer can only do so much. You may be warm for a while, but you won’t retain your body heat all day like you would when wearing layers. And when you get too warm, you can take off an outer layer, then put it back on again when needed. Chances are you won’t be able to do that if you start overheating in that chunky sweater.
- Know how to layer. If you’re doing it, do it right. Always choose a synthetic that will wick moisture away as your first layer, closest to your body. Perspiring can make you turn clammy and get a chill. A tightly woven cotton layer is an excellent second layer. Be sure to choose a moisture-resistant top layer, so your clothes don’t get soggy when the snow flies. A cap, scarf, and gloves will also help you stay warm.
- Take it easy on those sugary hot drinks. We all love to thaw out with a cup of cocoa or a fancy espresso drink, but they translate to liquid calories, often with little or no nutritional value. Try a cup of decaffeinated green tea. It will warm you up, and your immunity will get a boost, too, which is something we could all use at this time of year. Caffeine tends to make your body lose heat faster. (So does alcohol.)
- Avoid high-sodium soups. Like a cup of cocoa, a bowl of hot soup is a nice treat on a frigid day. But most soups, and most processed foods, are insanely high in sodium. Please look for lower sodium alternatives or dilute your soup with extra water. Better yet, make your own using low-sodium broth. It’s the healthiest alternative.
- Watch your form. If you’re shoveling snow, bend your knees and avoid hurting your back. Likewise, when walking across an icy parking lot, pay careful attention to where you’re going to avoid slipping and falling. Broken bones are no fun in any weather, but they’re awful when it’s freezing.
- Take a break. You can try to avoid staying outside for too long. Kids especially need a reminder to come in and warm up for a while since they can get so wrapped up in the fun of playing in the snow that they ignore the fact that they’re freezing. Finishing that snowman can wait. Have everyone come in regularly for some reading or other quiet activity.
- Stay in. If you don’t have to go out, don’t. Less cars on the road mean fewer accidents. Take advantage of online services or wait until another day when the weather’s better to do those errands. If you have to go out, check the weather forecast so you can plan to avoid being outside at the coldest time of day or when we’re due for snow or ice.
- Be prepared. Likewise, it’s essential to keep an emergency kit in your car.
Generally, staying healthy in colder weather boils down to some common sense and forethought. Plan, take your time, look after yourself, and teach your kids to do the same, and you’ll have a healthier, happier winter. Now, if we could get the temperature out of the teens …