Thursday, January 15, 2009

Preparing for cold temperatures and very dry air!

As we’re expecting some of the coldest weather in years to visit, albeit briefly, our North Carolina neighborhoods, its still important to keep some cold weather measures in mind for tonight and into the weekend.

This information is compiled from the National Weather Service and the University of New Hampshire.

1) If you have external pipes, wrap them to keep them from freezing. Be sure to disconnect hoses from outdoor faucets, as keeping them attached will promote freezing. Water lines in unheated recreational vehicles and out buildings should be winterized.

2) Be sure to have enough fuel on hand if you plan to use alternative heating sources. Also be sure to use the proper fuel if using a gas or kerosene heater, as many house fires result from fueling errors involving liquid or gas fueled heating equipment.

3) If possible, have your fireplace or wood stove inspected, especially if this is your first use of the season. Creosote buildup in chimneys resulting from years of use can promote chimney fires.

4) Use a sturdy screen or door in front of your fireplace when in use.

5) Burn only wood in fireplaces, never burn paper.

6) When using electric heaters, be aware not to overload electrical outlets. Also be careful of electrical cords that present hazardous walkways.

7) Keep heating sources at least 3 feet from curtains, bedding and other combustible objects. Failure to do so is one of the main causes of home fires involving space heaters.

7) Never leave children unattended in a room with a burning fireplace, running heater or lit candles.

8) Have you checked your smoke detector or changed the batteries lately?

9) If you have a fire extinguisher, make sure it is not past its effective date and that you know how to use it. Most fire departments will provide training on how to use them.

Your Vehicle…
1) Make sure your car has a good battery that is charged and charges well when the car is operating. Weak batteries are susceptible to cold temperatures and lose their charge easier. Also make sure you have that antifreeze in the radiator.. that is something that can easily be overlooked in our milder climate.

2) Keep some basic items in your car – Scraper, jumper cables, blankets, flashlight, and some munchies like granola bars.

Also:Be sure to bring pets in or provide shelter for them from these very cold temperatures. Some of the coldest temperatures will occur Friday and Saturday mornings when lows will fall into the lower teens. Wind chills could fall into the single digits as well, so make sure you’re well bundled-up when headed outdoors.

Regarding dry, cold air and dehydration, a study by the University of New Hampshire shows that while we still get dehydrated in cold weather, our bodies’ cues to hydrate are different.

When weather is hot, the body cools itself by directing fluid away from its core via a process called vasodialation. Your veins are opening up and taking heated fluids away from the body’s core and you sweat, thereby cooling you off. In colder temperatures, the veins constrict (vasoconstriction) to keep warm fluids near the body’s core and keep you warm. However, anytime you see your breath on a cold day, know that you are losing fluids, even if in small doses.

“People just don’t feel as thirsty when the weather is cold,” says Robert Kenefick, UNH associate professor of kinesiology. “When they don’t feel thirsty, they don’t drink as much, and this can cause dehydration.”

Yet the loss of fluid from our bodies, which triggers thirst in warmer weather, does not elicit the same response when the temperatures dip. It’s not simply because we don’t feel hot, Kenefick says. His 2005 study shows that cold actually alters thirst sensation.

Kenefick recommends that you follow the same advice in cold weather as in warm when it comes to keeping yourself hydrated. Drink plenty of water, especially when exercising or working outdoors. A good way to monitor proper hydration is to examine urine output – the color should be nearly clear.

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