MAHASKA COUNTY – Now that winter has officially arrived and cold weather is upon us, it’s important to make sure you and your loved ones are prepared. Mahaska Health Partnership Emergency Physician Amy Montgomery, DO, suggests ways to keep the whole family safe when temperatures plummet and weather conditions decline.
“When it comes to winter weather, the most important thing to remember is to stay warm and dry,” Dr. Montgomery explained. “If you’re exposed to the elements, risky health conditions can set in much quicker, such as frostbite. To minimize your risk of a medical emergency, wear proper clothing and do not venture out in extreme temperatures unless absolutely necessary.”
When heading outdoors, Dr. Montgomery recommends choosing appropriate clothing for each situation. “If you’re going out in slick conditions, wear waterproof boots with good traction to avoid falls; which can result in sprains, strains or breaks. Wear a tightly woven, wind-resistant coat with inner layers of warm clothing. Try to keep as much of your body covered by grabbing a hat, mittens and scarf.”
When at home, make sure to keep your family and neighbors safe with cleared walkways. “If it snows, make sure to get sidewalks properly cleared for those travelling on foot,” Dr. Montgomery encouraged. “If there’s ice, use salt, sand or kitty litter to help it melt and increase traction. If you are working outside, make sure to take it easy; work slowly and carry a cell phone in case you fall and are unable to get back inside where it’s warm.”
For those who need to travel, Dr. Montgomery suggests proper vehicle preparation. “Make sure your car is equipped to handle the winter weather. Don’t drive on bald tires, leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you and make sure someone knows your expected time of arrival.
“If you end up in the ditch, make sure your tailpipe is clear of blockages and try to tie something bright high up on the car for easier visibility to others,” Dr. Montgomery continued. “Run the engine and heater for only ten minutes every hour to conserve energy and continue moving your arms and legs while in your car.”
Should you fall or have prolonged exposure to the elements, make sure to seek medical care. “Hypothermia can be especially risky if not handled quickly,” Dr. Montgomery explained. “If someone has confusion, slurred speech, exhaustion, numb hands or feet, shallow breathing or violent shivering; get out of the cold immediately and change out of any wet clothes into something dry. Frostbite can show similar symptoms, along with part of the skin turning white and hard or black with loss of feeling. Call 911 immediately if any of these symptoms arise to better your chances of minimizing long-term effects.”
When it comes to winter weather, safety should be your number one priority. “Don’t go out in extreme conditions unless you absolutely have to,” Dr. Montgomery urged. “Travel prepared, keep your pets, family and neighbors safe, and dress appropriately for all conditions.”
Dr. Amy Montgomery has been practicing medicine since 2004. As an emergency physician at MHP, she is ready and waiting to care for patients as they present to the emergency department. She prides herself on being a good listener and remaining calm during stressful situations to provide the best possible outcomes for patients.
Mahaska Health Partnership, located in Oskaloosa, is a non-profit health system accredited by the Joint Commission. It is guided by its mission to provide exceptional customer service and health improvement, linking the science of medicine with the humanity of compassionate care. For more information about how Mahaska Health Partnership is making healthcare personal, visit mahaskahealth.org.