Guest Commentary

Friday, February 1, 2013

Surviving a Eureka winter

Winter weather in the Ozarks is unpredictable, and we are far from the end of the season. Just a little snow or ice can make travel by car or on foot a slippin' and slidin' experience, especially on the Eureka hills and hollers. But with a little preparation, you and your family can be safer and more comfortable.

Losing electricity is always a possibility with a winter or spring storm. Keep extra supplies on hand in case the power goes out. Be sure that includes a few days' worth of any prescription medicines.

Elderly people and those dependent on medical equipment should make plans to ensure their needs are met in case of power outages. Individuals with special needs can register with their utility company to become a priority customer during blackouts and emergencies, but they should do it before bad weather strikes. Caretakers should inform the police or fire department that there is a special-needs resident at the address. It's also a good idea to exchange phone numbers with nearby neighbors, relatives and friends.

Cold puts extra strain on the heart. Take it easy. Heavy exertion such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car can increase the risk of heart attack. Rest frequently to avoid overexertion when working outdoors. If you feel chest pain, stop! Seek help immediately.

It sounds silly, but don't overheat. Dress warmly, but peel layers as necessary to stay comfortable. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before you go out and while you are working. Body heat is lost through the head, so always wear a hat or hood and cover your ears, which are subject to frostbite. Wear gloves or mittens, which maintain more warmth because fingers touch each other. A scarf worn over your mouth can protect your lungs from extremely cold air.

Go inside often for warm-up breaks. Long periods of exposure to severe cold and wind increase the risk of frostbite or hypothermia. If you start to shiver a lot or get very tired, or if skin turns numb or pale on your nose, fingers, toes or earlobes, go inside right away.

Use some care and preparation in order to enjoy our beautiful Ozark winter. And remember, we're here 24/7 at Eureka Springs Hospital if you need a little help.

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