Oliver: A little common sense goes long way when dealing with frigid weather

CDC offers practical tips to stay warm when temperatures plummet

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve had to deal with temperatures this low. Of course, those of us who have lived in the Midwest for any length of time know that frigid weather is inevitable. Usually we get a week or two of this, and then we’re done.

Back in the day, we’d get a day off from school when the wind chills made it seem like we’d been transported to the Arctic Circle. With everyone now using Zoom or other teleconferencing apps for attending school from home, canceling school probably isn’t going to be an option anymore. Sorry, kids.

This bone-chilling cold makes doing anything outside more difficult. If we pretend it’s not that cold, we run the risk of harming ourselves. So as in so many things in life, we need to have the proper balance of Midwestern “let’s get it done” with some good, old-fashioned common sense.

With that in mind, it’s probably not a bad idea to brush up on our cold-weather safety tips.

The American Red Cross offers this advice for protecting yourself against the cold:

  • Dress in layers of lightweight clothing. They will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat.
  • Mittens are warmer than gloves. Wear a hat, preferably one that covers the ears. (That means baseball caps aren’t all that helpful.)
  • Wear waterproof, insulated boots. They keep your feet warm and dry, and help you maintain footing on snow and ice.
  • When working or playing outside, take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you show signs of hypothermia, which include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion or severe shivering.
  • Also seek medical attention immediately if you show signs of frostbite, which include numbness; skin discoloration that is flushed gray, white, blue or yellow; or waxy-feeling skin.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also point out that we need to watch out for infants younger than a year old because they lose body heat more easily than adults. They also can’t make enough body heat when they shiver.

That means that infants need to be kept in warm clothing. Never let them sleep in a cold room, but remember that pillows and other soft bedding can pose a risk of smothering; keep them away from where the baby sleeps.

We also need to pay attention to our older adults because they, too, are susceptible to the cold. They often make less body heat because of a slower metabolism and less activity.

Make it a practice to check in with elderly family members and friends to make sure their homes are adequately heated. They also shouldn’t be trying to use a stove, oven or other unsafe means to keep warm.

More tips also can be found online at

Let’s not forget our furry friends, too. Remember to bring in any pets as the temperatures drop. They may have fur, but their extremities are just as susceptible to the cold as ours are.

Those of us who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias know that we have to be very vigilant. My Tony isn’t always going to tell me when he’s cold. So if we go outside in this (which we try to avoid), then I make sure we take frequent warm-up breaks. The last thing we need is to be dealing with frostbite or hypothermia, too.

As always, if we take a few precautions, we can get through this cold snap just as we have gotten through these many months of pandemic restrictions.

With the cold, though, we have more of a guarantee of when it will be over. Spring can’t get here soon enough.

Joan Oliver

Joan Oliver

A 30-year newspaper veteran who has been a copy editor, front-page editor, presentation editor, assistant news editor and publication editor, as well as a columnist and host of an online newspaper newscast.