Winterize Your Body

Dr. Jim's Winter Safety Tips

Have fun in the snow, but remember: safety should come first! Pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears gives you his top 10 winter safety tips!

Mary Pat wrote in to and asked how she could best prepare her body for the cold. The Doctors set is turned into a winter wonderland as The Doctors share tips to keep you safe and healthy as the weather gets frosty.

Kids' Winter Questions

Is it safe to eat snow?
Despite the cool weather, you can become extremely thirsty while skiing or snowboarding and oftentimes, people will reach down for a handful of snow to quench their thirst. But is it safe?

"As long as it's not yellow!" plastic surgeon Dr. Drew Ordon jokes.

Snow forms when water vapor comes in contact with cold air. The vapor, gaseous water molecules, will often connect to a small particle, such as a tiny piece of dust, and form a snow crystal. Clusters of the snow crystals make snowflakes.

"The only time I'll eat snow now is if I'm in the back-country, [like] the Rocky Mountains," E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork says, "because there are pollutants that attach [to the snow]. We can't really recommend that kids eat snow. Kids shouldn't go out in their front yard and find a big piece of snow and start eating it, because there are potential pollutants. But a little bit is not going to kill you."

Winter Survival Guide

To help you stay healthy this winter, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's winter survival guide!

• Prepare Your Home
Prepare Your Car
Winter Weather Checklist

In addition to possible pollutants in the snow, some ski resorts make snow from reclaimed water, which may not be safe for consumption.

Why do cooler temperatures make your face and nose red?
"The body is pretty smart," Dr. Ordon says. "The body will divert blood to maintain body temperature. The first place it diverts blood to is the so-called core, the inner part of the body, to keep that warm. But progressively, as it gets colder, it also diverts blood to the extremities, so that's one of the reasons why the face and your fingers and things [become red]. It's a protective mechanism to keep you warm and to protect those exposed areas."

If you plan on being out in the cold for extended periods of time, be sure to keep your nose, hands and feet covered up, as they are at higher risk for frostbite.

 Why does your tongue stick to a frozen metal pole if you lick it?
"A metal pole is a better conductor of heat than your tongue," Dr. Travis says. "So that moisture and heat from your tongue will immediately go to the pole, and the moisture on your tongue will drop to 32 degrees or below, then it freezes. The good news is that your tongue isn't actually frozen to the pole; it's the moisture on your tongue."

While it may be tempting to try to pull your stuck tongue off the pole as fast as you can, doing so can be dangerous.

"The problem is if you try to remove it too quickly, you're actually going to leave part of your tongue on that pole," Dr. Ordon says. "What you do is you take warm water - not hot, not cold - and pour it on slowly and gently, and let that tongue un-stick from whatever it's stuck to."

Snow Shoveling

Shoveling snow is a necessary chore that can be great exercise, but it can also be dangerous. Dr. Jim and Dr. Travis share tips to shovel safely.

Dry Hand Help
After a long day out in the cold, your hands can become dry. This happens because there are very few oil-producing glands in the hands, and the skin is among the thinnest on the body.

"You're using your hands, it's cold, it's very dry and they crack," Dr. Ordon says. "That can hurt."

To help put moisture back in your hands, Dr. Ordon suggests applying petroleum jelly and covering them with either gloves or a sock overnight.

"Your hands will get nice and moist and smooth," Dr. Ordon adds. "It'll all be good."

OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson demonstrates another home remedy for dry winter skin.

To prevent dryness to your extremeties, use hand and foot cream.

Stay Safe while Enjoying the Flames
Outdoor winter fun can be a blast, but staying in and enjoying a crackling fire can be just as fun. However, 20 percent of accidental fires occur in the home, so be sure to take precautions before using the fireplace. The Doctors explain how to stay safe while enjoying the fireplace!

Teeth Chattering

Do your teeth chatter uncontrollably when you're cold? Find out why it happens and what to do if it does.

• Keep objects at least 2 feet away from the fire, because sparks can ignite a fire.
Keep the chimney flue open so smoke can flow out, rather than into the room.
Always place a screen in front of burning logs.
Don't stack too many logs in the fireplace, because they can roll out.
Do not leave children unattended near a lit fireplace and don't let them throw objects into it. Also, do not let them touch the screen or glass covering the fire, because they can become extremely hot.
Avoid using liquid igniters such as kerosene, gasoline or lighter fluid.
If you are using a gas fireplace, make sure you turn it off completely when you are done, because the gas emitted from it can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. If people in the house develop flu-like symptoms — headaches, but no fever go outside immediately, because it could be a sign of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Have your chimney inspected by a certified specialist and cleaned once a year.
If you have a space heater, keep it away from anything that can catch fire. Make sure it is certified by a certified testing organization, and unplug it when not in use.

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OAD 12/4/09