Slips and falls: No matter how steadily we walk, it's hard to go an entire winter without at least one "whoops!" A slip-and-slide on an icy patch is graceless at best. Maybe we fall on our bums. Or worse, we really hurt ourselves. Do your best to prevent pratfalls and injuries:
- Keep walkways and stairs cleared of snow and ice. This protects not just you and your family but also postal carriers and other people making deliveries in your neighborhood.
- Fortify your footing. Opt for rubber-soled shoes or boots or add some traction to your footwear with slip-on anti-slip cleats (think of them as snow tires for your feet!).
- Lighten your load. Carry fewer bags and packages on slippery days, since excess baggage can throw off your balance and make it tougher to regain your balance once you lose it.
- Wear gloves. How does this help you not slip and fall? When you wear gloves or mittens to keep your hands warm, you're less likely to shove your hands in your pockets. You need your arms and hands free to help you recover your balance if you start to slip or slide.
- Slow down! Better to get to your destination late than never, after all.
Cold feet and hands: When the temperature drops, our bodies kick into survival mode, constricting our blood vessels to conserve heat and preserve our body temperature. That means it takes longer for warming circulation to reach the tips of our toes and the ends of our fingers. To keep the blood flowing to those extremities:
- Loosen your boots. It seems like a good way to fight off the cold - wrapping your feet up in snug wool socks and tucking them all cozy and tightly into your boots. But wrap your toes up too tightly, and you risk constricting blood flow to your feet and making them feel even colder. Instead, opt for thinner wool or polypropylene socks and consider going up a shoe size for your winter footwear.
- Waterproof your extremities. Choose boots, socks, gloves, and mittens that will keep moisture out while allowing perspiration to escape. Look for gloves with gathering at the wrist and socks with light binding around the band. If your boots and shoes are not already water-tight, you can weatherproof them yourself using a spray protectant or a beeswax product. Or check with a shoe repair store to be sure you do it correctly.
- Select the right gloves for the job. Take public transit in the winter? Gloves with a "convertible" top can make it easier to rifle through the change in your pocket for your transit token. These days, you can also find gloves with small plastic dots on the fingertips - perfect for switching songs on your MP3 player or dialing your cell phone! But you'll need warmer gloves with some grip to them if you have to shovel your sidewalk or scrape the ice off of your windshield. Pull rubber cleaning gloves over the top of your usual gloves for traction if you're in a pinch. To combat extreme cold, slip disposable hand warmers into your gloves. These packets, made with various compounds including iron, charcoal, salt, and water, take advantage of the natural reaction between those elements to create long-lasting, mellow warmth.
- Select the right socks for the job. While cotton socks make sense in the summer, in cold weather they can be moisture traps that provide no warmth from insulation. Since it's thicker and more insulated, wool stays warmer. Even though wool absorbs moisture, it dries up quickly. Wool socks may not be too sexy, but they'll protect your tootsies.
Note: Cold hands and feet are common in wintertime, but some people may have a condition called Raynaud's disease, where they get chilled extremities at the slightest drop of temperature or at other unexpected times.
Windburn: Cold, windy air can be like a sandblaster to your skin. When the wind burns, skin can become red and irritated. The chafing heat of windburn can feel similar to sunburn. The best way to prevent windburn is to keep the wind from touching your skin:
- Face the cold. Wrap a scarf around the bottom half of your face or go ninja-style in a balaclava - a full-face ski mask.
- Put on a coat...of petroleum jelly? Smooth a layer of moisturizer or petroleum jelly onto your cheeks, nose, and lips to seal in skin's moisture and prevent drying out.
- Muffle your ears. The tender tops of our ears can be one of those forgotten skin spots left open and vulnerable to the elements. Not so when you wear a hood, hat, headband, or ear muffs!
- Nuzzle your neck. Seize the opportunity to wear snuggly scarves or cute, cozy "cowls" and neck warmers (also known as gaiters).
Soothe windburn symptoms like you might with sunburn: acetaminophen or anti-inflammatory medications for pain, switching to milder cleansers, and keeping skin moisturized.