2004-01-23 / Community

Residents Urged To Prepare For Cold Weather Conditions

Residents Urged To Prepare For Cold Weather Conditions

With temperatures expected to remain below freezing for the next few weeks, NYC Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden has recommended health and safety precautions to take during the winter season. Frieden also reminded New Yorkers that it is still flu season and urged them to take steps to prevent colds and the flu.

Dr. Frieden said, "New Yorkers should dress warmly in layers and cover up as much as possible. Since infants and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to body heat loss from cold weather conditions, parents and caregivers should ensure that their loved ones are adequately protected from the cold. Basic precautions should be taken while spending time outdoors during the winter. Being prepared can help to prevent serious health effects – including frostbite and hypothermia – associated with the cold weather."

"Protect against colds and the flu," Dr. Frieden reminded New Yorkers. "Cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze, wash your hands frequently, consider staying home from work or school if you’re sick, and, if you’re in a high risk group, a flu shot is still recommended to help protect against the flu. For information about where to receive a flu shot, call 311."

Dress properly

* Wear a hat, hood or scarf, as most heat is lost through the head;

* Wear layers of clothing, rather than a single outerwear item (several layers in order provide better insulation);

* The outer layer of clothing should be tightly woven and wind resistant;

* Be aware of the effects of wind chill. As the speed of wind increases, it can carry heat away from the body faster;

* Keep clothing dry. If your clothes become wet while outside, change into dry clothes as soon as possible.

Look after infants and the elderly

* Infants and the elderly are at increased risk of hypothermia and frostbite. Parents and caregivers should ensure that their loved one are adequately protected against the cold;

* Check on elderly neighbors to make sure that they are warm enough. Also, older adults should exercise caution when walking outdoors on wet and icy sidewalks.

Keep warm with proper heating

* Portable heaters approved for indoor use should be used with extreme care to avoid shock, dire and burns;

* Keep combustible materials, including furniture, drapes, and carpeting at least 3 feet from the heat source;

* Gas ovens and burners should never be used in place of central heating or portable heaters in one’s home;

* Portable fuel-burning heaters continue to be illegal for indoor use in the city; use equipment that is approved fro indoor use only;

* It is a landlord’s legal responsibility to provide heat for tenants. In the event of heat deficiency, a tenant should first attempt to notify the building owner, managing agent or superintendent;

* If heat is not restored, the tenant should call the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) at 311 where an operator is available 24 hours a day;

* Low-income seniors may be eligible for a Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) grant to help pay heating and electric bills. Contact the NYC Department for the Aging at 311.

Avoid Carbon Monoxide

* Make sure all fuel-burning items – such as furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters, and clothes dryers – in your home are operating properly, ventilated and regularly inspected by a professional in order to prevent unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning; keep chimneys clean and maintain chimney flues;

* Keep duct work clean;

* Never turn on your over to heat your kitchen, or operate gas or charcoal barbeque grills, kerosene or oil burning heaters in an enclosed space;

* Never idle a vehicle in a closed garage or parked against a snow bank;

* Do not turn on gas-powered equipment – such as snow blowers, chainsaws, generators or small engines – in enclosed spaces;

* Maintain your vehicle exhaust system to eliminate leaks;

* In the case of a possible carbon monoxide poisoning, get the person fresh air to breathe immediately. Also try to open as many windows in the home as possible, and immediately call 911 and/or the Poison Control Center at 1.800.222.1222.

Drinking Alcohol can be


* Alcohol doesn’t make your warmer and drinking alcohol when outside in the cold weather is dangerous; it increases one’s risk for hypothermia and frostbite;

Prevent Colds and the Flu

* There are simple, common-sense things that New Yorkers can do to help prevent getting or spreading a cold or the flu;

* Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze;

* Wash your hands frequently;

* Stay at home instead of going to school or work if you are sick;

* Get a flu shot if you are at high risk for flu complications;

* Persons 65 year and older; residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that house persons of any age who have long-term illnesses;

* Healthy children ages 6 – 23 months;

* Persons 6 months to 64 years of age who have chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma;

* Persons 6 months of age and older requiring regular medical care, or who were hospitalized because of metabolic diseases (such as diabetes), chronic kidney disease or weakened immune systems (including immune system problems caused by medicine or by infection with HIV/AIDS);

* Children and teenagers aged 6 months to 18 years who are on long-term aspirin therapy and therefore could develop Reye syndrome after the flu; and

* Women who will be more than 3 months pregnant during the flu season.

In addition, medical workers who are exposed to individuals with high risk of the flu should also be vaccinated.

Extensive body heat loss can lead to hypothermia, a potentially life-threatening condition in which body temperature drops below 96F. Symptoms of hypothermia include confusion or mental disorientation, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, shivering, slurred speech, memory loss, sleepiness, cool or pale skin, slightly blue lips, and/or numbness in the hands and feet. If someone is suspected of having developed hypothermia, the person should be brought someplace warm and seen by a medical provider as soon as possible.

Frostbite is another serious condition that can be caused by cold temperatures. Frostbite can affect any area of the body exposed to cold temperatures – most frequently extremities including fingers, toes, ears, and the nose. Frostbite affected areas of the body should be warmed quickly, using care to avoid intense heat. As with hypothermia, cases of frostbite should be treated by a medical provider. For more information on winter weather safety, visit www.nyc.gov or call 311.

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