The winter of 2020-21 will not soon be forgotten. Not only was northeastern Pennsylvania getting a handle on the global COVID-19 pandemic, but we were also shoveling, salting, and rubbing seemingly nonstop due to heavy snow, sleet, and ice. It was a winter to remember, or dare I say – forget it.
A year later, COVID-19 and its variants continue to make us behave cautiously while also preparing for winter weather and how the global pandemic has affected the rest of our lives. There is not much we can do to ward off any snow and slippery roads and sidewalks, other than storing slag and rock salt, and making sure our shovels are practical and that there is fresh gasoline in our snow thrower and generators.
The environment:Clean water is up to you: the benefits of saving that salt
However, the disruption in the supply chain, which feeds on inflation and a lack of various products, will be felt a little more in the winter months. Sharply higher petrol, electricity, heating oil and natural gas bills will hit consumers in the wallet, just as we are preparing to pay for our holiday shopping trips.
As a registered and licensed dietitian and nutritionist for the Wright Center for Community Health’s Lifestyle Medicine Program, I have a few tips to keep you warmer, safer and healthier when you turn down your thermostats a few degrees to save on your energy bill or pick up a shovel to help family and neighbors dig out yet another near-record snowfall.
It is important to remember that the following are only tips for overall well-being and injury prevention in cold months and related weather events. My tips include:
Maintain adequate hydration: Stretch your back and legs in preparation for strenuous exercise before putting on your winter gear and reaching out for that snow shovel. Equally important, however, is hydration. Research has shown that cold weather changes our thirst mechanism, resulting in a decrease in fluid intake and eventually dehydration. It is important to maintain your level of hydration, especially when you are outside carrying firewood, clearing an ice dam in gutters or performing seasonal activity. Taking regular water remains one of the best ways to stay hydrated.
Column continues by gallery.
Wear layer: Layers of light, warm clothing under a windproof winter coat will do wonders for your thinking while you struggle to clear driveways and walkways – or enjoy outdoor activities with children. The importance of proper headgear and footwear can also not be underestimated. They work together to keep you warm and dry and prevent heat loss, hypothermia and even frostbite from setting in. Remember: A good winter hat keeps a cap on your body’s warmth!
Plan ahead: Be prepared for weather-related emergencies, including power outages. Store bottled water and indigestible food that cannot be spoiled due to lack of refrigeration. You never know how long you may be without power during a winter storm. Do not forget the importance of storing durable foods. Hold a variety of fruit and nut bars, aseptically packaged beverages, vacuum-sealed proteins, dried fruits and pickled vegetables.
Keep an updated emergency kit: An emergency kit should be an integral part of every home and vehicle. It includes extra batteries, a flashlight, weather radio, first aid kit, mobile phone and extra medicine. You should adjust this list based on your individual needs, especially if you are on a regular course of medication.
Something to think about:Here’s what you should know about winter driving in the Poconos
Plan before you travel: Winter is also a season filled with travel for friends and family because of the holidays. For safety, it is important to be aware of current and expected weather conditions. Avoid traveling when the National Weather Service has issued directions. If you are traveling, please inform a friend or relative of your suggested route and expected arrival time.
Be a good neighbor: Everyone knows a friend, relative or neighbor who needs a special hand during the winter months. Check out those who are particularly prone to dangers in cold weather, such as young children, older adults and the chronically ill. If you have pets, also take them inside or give them adequate warm shelter and unfrozen water to drink.
No one can stop the beginning of winter. But if you follow these suggestions, you will be ready when it arrives.
Walter Wanas, LDN, a licensed dietitian nutritionist, is the director of lifestyle changes and preventative medicine for the Wright Center for Community Health’s Lifestyle Medicine Program in Scranton.