Tips to stay warm in the bitter cold

— Submitted photo Wearing hats and mittens can help keep the winter chill away. Dawn Trujillo with Hamilton County Public Health, said mittens actually keep hands warmer than gloves in frigid temperatures.

Once again, the bitter Iowa winter weather is back. With temperatures dipping below freezing, Dawn Trujillo, a nurse with Hamilton County Public Health, has some tips to help locals stay safe and healthy.

“If you have to go out in the cold weather you need to dress properly,” said Trujillo. “If you’re going to be out in the elements for a length of time, wear light layers of clothing. If you get too hot, you can always take a layer off.”

Whether it’s a quick trip to the grocery store, walk to school, or other outside excursion, individuals going out in extremely cold temperatures should always take care to bundle up for the cold. Individuals should wear light, loose layers of clothing and keep all layers dry.

Trujillo also reminds parents to make sure their children are dressed for the school commute.

“Definitely if they have to walk any distance, make sure they are dressed properly. Wearing hats and mittens, of course, are a given. Mittens keep your hands warmer than gloves. But if you have gloves, that is better than nothing,” said Trujillo. “Definitely wear a hat and a winter coat. If you’re going to be out for a length of time, you also want your feet protected. Good, warm winter boots are also important.”

Those who work outdoors for longer periods of time should take frequent breaks to warm up indoors.

“If you’re not really having to get out, then I suggest you just don’t. There’s a lot of things you can do within your home to also combat the cold,” said Trujillo.

Staying hydrated is also an important step in helping fend off the cold. Trujillo explained that eating hot and spicy food also helps warm the body.

“People don’t think about it much in the winter but it’s also really good to keep yourself hydrated,” said Trujillo. “You don’t really think about that in the winter more, you think of it more when it’s really hot. But it’s really important to keep your water intake up. That will help you stay warmer.

“I know it’s hard sometimes when you’re just sitting around in your house you get chilled,” Trujillo said. “There are some things you can do than rather immediately run and turn the thermostat up. Put on an extra sweater, an extra pair of socks, house slippers, things like that.”

Although the flu is prevalent during the winter season, Trujillo said that not much flu activity has been seen in Webster City.

“If people haven’t got their flu shot, it’s not too late to go ahead and get that,” said Trujillo.

According to Trujillo, the flu shot is still available at Hamilton County Public Health, Hy-Vee pharmacy, and Thrifty-White Pharmacy. Those who wish to get the flu shot can also do so by contacting their physician. A high dose of the shot is available for those 65 years and older. The regular dose for those under 65 is also available. Children six months and older can get the flu shot according to Trujillo.

The flu mist is not available this year because it was found not to be as effective as the shot.

To help combat the cold and flu, keeping surfaces clean and sanitized goes a long way. This includes the kitchen counters, television remote, phones, and other heavily-used items.

Everyone should exercise proper hand washing to decrease the spread of germs from person to person. Those who are sick, child or adult, should stay home from school and work to help prevent the spread of cold and flu.

“If you don’t feel good and are sick, stay home. Don’t expose your co-workers or classmates at school. I know it’s hard sometimes to stay home when you don’t have the sick days or sick pay,” said Trujillo. “Try not to expose the people you are around.”

When temperatures go down, thermostats go up. The contributes to higher heating bills during the winter months.

“A big concern this time of year is the cost of heating your home. People are a little bit leery about turning up the thermostat. One thing can do to help curb that is dress warmer,” Trujillo said. “Close rooms that you’re not going to use in your house to keep the minimum area that you’re using warmer. Use draft dodgers.”

With the increased usage of heaters and furnaces, Trujillo cautions individuals to be careful with space heaters and other fire hazards.

“One thing that also concerns me too this time of year is the use of space heaters. I know some people don’t have a choice, but space heaters can be real dangerous,” said Trujillo. “Make sure your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are up and running and batteries are changed.”

Trujillo cautions against running space heaters with extension cords.

“I think that’s just adding fuel to the fire. Make sure you run a flat level surface. Make sure you buy one that if it tips over it shuts off,” Trujillo said. “Keep anything flammable away from it.”

Pets are also in need of warm, dry shelter in cold weather.

“They need to have a place to get warm,” said Trujillo. “If you can, try to keep them inside in a breezeway or garage or something where they can have a little more warmth. Most pets can keep themselves warm if they have an area to get in that is dry.”