occupational health

Seasonal health in the South: Staying safe in the cold

In the summer, Houston heat is notorious. And, as such, we have all adapted, with swimming pools dotting city landscapes, cooler than necessary air conditioners in most every home and business, and employers posting information about heat stress signs and symptoms and providing Gatorade. Hospital ERs are equipped to deal with heat sickness cases, and have many every summer. But, what about the cold? How do Southerners deal with temperatures below freezing (which, contrary to common opinion, does happen even in Texas)?

One of our biggest deficiencies is not accepting the cold. We believe that we can make it to the car, we can make it to the office, we can do this one job without protection from the cold. This is not true. According to Antarctic fuel operator Johnathan Foster, one of the keys to staying safe in the cold is accepting it and adapting to it. Dress appropriately, in layers, even if your journey is brief. It’s not worth it to catch a cold, get frostbite, or other consequences because of pride.

Southerners are rarely equipped for the cold. Our roads don’t have the rock salt of New England. Our closets rarely have gloves and mufflers, boots and wool socks, and most our homes have heat pumps rather than furnaces. Our offices, equipped with powerful ACs to tame the heat, often have cold spots and poor insulation.

However, we do have ingenuity. Use layers when it’s cold to protect from the wind and damp, drive slowly on the roads in the dark and black ice, and use warm beverages to keep your core temperature up.

The cold, when it comes, can be severe, but it rarely lasts for long. Make sure you, your family, your employees (and even your pets) are appropriately dressed and sheltered this winter.

 

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