Health and safety tips to help you welcome winter weather

Wednesday October 11th, 2023

Winter is typically known for its coldness and shorter days. With that colder weather comes holiday celebrations and perhaps outdoor activities like snowshoeing and snowman-making depending on where you live. Winter is a great time to snuggle under blankets with a cup of hot cocoa and a good movie or lounge by the fire with a good book. As wonderful as winter is, it can affect your health and well-being. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to stay safer and healthier indoors and out this winter. Here’s how.

Maintain your health whether indoors or out

As more activities move indoors with the colder weather, it’s important to stay diligent. Wash your hands frequently using soap and water. You’ll want to wash for at least 20 seconds. You might sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. You could also try the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” or Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” If you’re into musicals, try “Tomorrow” from Annie or “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music. Avoid close contact with others who may be sick. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or by using the inside of your elbow. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily like doorknobs, lightswitches and faucets.

Indoor safety tips

Get enough vitamin D
With winter comes less sunlight. Your body naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight which helps it absorb calcium and have a normal immune system. Vitamin D has been shown to help fight disease like multiple sclerosis, reduce depression and event boost weight loss. But when there’s less sunlight, it may be more challenging to get all the vitamin D you need. Here are some easy things you can do to keep your spirits up:
    • Take a vitamin D supplement.
    • Eat vitamin D-rich foods like salmon, shrimp, dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese), egg yolks and certain cereals.
    • Try a UV light that simulates sunlight.

Stay moisturized
Dry and cold winter air can dry out your skin and cause itching or flaking. In order to keep your skin feeling its best, you need to hydrate it inside and out. Here are some tips:
    • Drink enough water. Medications can cause fluid loss in addition to winter dryness.
    • Use a thick lotion and moisturize daily.
    • Use a humidifier to keep the air in your home from becoming too dry.

Keep your home safe and clean
There are some easy practices you can do to keep your home safe and clean during the winter:
    • Take off wet shoes near the door and switch into house shoes/slippers with a supportive and rubber sole. Put wet shoes on a tray or towel to prevent melting ice from creating a slip hazard.
    • Install a carbon monoxide detector as gas fireplaces, stoves and furnaces could cause a gas leak.
    • Use a HEPA filter to prevent dust.

Practice healthy habits
It can be tempting to turn to comfort foods in the winter, but you’re more likely to feel better and more energized if you stick to a healthy eating routine with fresh fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. You’ll also want to get enough sleep and to stay active. If you have a SilverSneakers benefit as part of your health plan, you can workout from home using one of their on-demand videos or live virtual classes.

Outdoor safety tips

Use the right gear
Winter in your area may require specialized clothing or shoes depending on how much snow and ice you get. No matter what, it’s smart to invest in a pair of sturdy shoes that are warm, waterproof, not too heavy, provide good traction and go above your ankle or calf. If your area gets icy, you may want to get cleats that can clip on and off of your existing shoes for more grip.

Use hand railings or a helper to get around safely. You can also use ice-friendly walking sticks that look like ski poles or add an ice tip to a cane for added support. You may also want to keep gravel, de-icer or kitty litter on hand (near an entrance and/or your car) so you can add more traction for ice.

You’ll want to have a warm coat and accessories like a hat, scarf and gloves. If you dress in layers, you can more easily adjust your temperature.

Shoveling smarts
Shoveling is a great way to keep walkways safer in the winter but it can also cause injury. Here’s how to keep yourself safer while shoveling:
    • Get an ergonomic shovel that makes it easier to maintain good form.
    • If it’s within your budget, you might opt for a motorized snowblower.
    • Take frequent breaks inside, especially with wet or heavy snowfall, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Listen to your body and what it’s telling you.
    • Lift with your legs and not your back to prevent straining or pulling any muscles.
    • It’s ok to ask for and receive help. There are plenty of seniors community organizations out there that offer assistance for household chores like shoveling. Find resources in your area using the Humana Community Navigator.

Know the warning signs of frostbite and hypothermia
The cold can be invigorating but be sure to pay attention to your body and what it’s telling you if you plan to spend an extended period of time outdoors. Here are the signs of frostbite:
    • Numbness
    • Redness
    • Pain
    • Waxy-feeling skin

These are the warning signs of hypothermia:
    • Exhaustion
    • Confusion
    • Slurred speech
    • Memory loss

A safer winter wonderland

Your health is one of the important things in your life. It keeps you independent and happy and lets you lead the kind of life you want to live. You have the power to make healthier choices everyday to make a positive impact on your health and happiness. And Humana is here to help.

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