Dressing for the Winter Weather

The single biggest clothing tip for enduring cold, winter weather is to dress in layers. Layers of clothing trap body heat and protect skin from cold temperatures and wind. Below are other tips for young and old alike.

Socks: Wool, fleece and other fiber blends make the ideal material for warm winter socks. You'll find them at most sporting apparel stores. Cotton is a terrible choice because it is a poor insulator.

Shoes: Boots with rubber soles and lined with insulating material are the best choice to protect your feet from snow, slush, and cold.

Gloves: Protect your hands and fingers by wearing warm insulating gloves or mittens. Gloves with exteriors made of waterproof synthetic material are perfect for outdoor fun.

Hats and Scarves: Hats and scarves hold heat close to your head and neck. Wrap your scarf around your face to protect your ears and nose from extreme cold.

Coat: Any winter clothing ensemble is not complete without a sturdy winter coat that will keep you warm and dry.

Sunscreen and Lip Balm: Don't forget to protect your skin from dangerous UV radiation by applying sun screen, and use lip balm to protect your lips from becoming chapped.

Winter's chill can be harsh and even dangerous. Proper clothing and preparation can mean the difference between a fun frolic in the snow or frostbitten toes.

Pet Safety

Winter is here, so don't forget that Fido can also be affected by the cold days and nights ahead.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the world's largest animal protection organization, is urging pet owners to take a few common sense precautions to safe guard their pets against cold temperatures. Despite their fur coats, domesticated animals like cats and dogs depend on humans for protection from elements such as freezing temperatures.

The HSUS is offering the following suggestions to help keep all pets safe through the cold winter months:

  • Don't leave pets outdoors when the temperature drops below freezing.
  • Dogs need outdoor exercise but take care not to keep them out for lengthy periods during very cold weather.
  • Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater during walks.
  • Dogs and cats are safer indoors in all sorts of weather.
  • Animals should never be left outdoors unattended as they risk being stolen or otherwise being harmed.
  • Wind chill can threaten a pet's life, no matter what the temperature.
  • Outdoor dogs must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with a flap of heavy waterproof fabric or heavy plastic.
  • Pets spending a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter. Keeping warm depletes energy.
  • Routinely check your pet's water dish to make certain the water is fresh and not frozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal.
  • Warm car engines are dangerous for cats and small wildlife.
  • Parked cars attract small animals that may crawl up under the hood looking for warmth. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car's hood to scare them away before starting your engine.
  • De-icing chemicals are hazardous. The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet's feet. Wipe the feet with a damp towel every time after coming in from outdoors even if you don't see salt on walkways.
  • Antifreeze is a deadly poison. It has a sweet taste that attracts animals and children. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze out of reach. Better yet, use antifreeze-coolant made with propylene glycol; if swallowed in small amounts, it will not hurt pets, wildlife, or people.

Winterizing Your Home

  1. Drain outside spigots and make sure outside spigots are off. Find the inside shutoff valve, which should have a drain plug attached, says Tom Silva, general contractor on "This Old House" and "Ask This Old House;" shut it off and leave the drain plug open. Then go outside and open the faucets and leave them open. That way, any remaining water drains out and won't freeze.
  2. Clean all the debris from gutters and down spouts. Be sure to clear out those outside window wells, too, says Silva, to prevent the debris from freezing where it is and blocking water drainage.
  3. Check the windows. Make sure your storm windows are "completely protecting your window" and ready to meet the cold, says Silva. And make sure the weep holes, which allow condensation to drain, are clean and open.
  4. Caulk. For home use, Silva recommends one of four varieties of caulk: butyl, latex with silicone, acrylic with silicone or tripolymer. "You don't want to use [straight] silicone," he says. Use caulk on openings or outlets around pipes, foundation, windows, etc. "You want to stop any migration of water and air," he says.
  5. Check storm doors. Make sure they close properly. And now's the time to add that weather-stripping around doors and thresholds if you need it, Silva says.
  6. Insulate water lines. Put foam rubber insulation (you can buy it sized in a home store) around hot and cold water pipes, says Silva. You'll increase efficiency and save energy.
  7. Get those heating units maintained. Make sure your heating appliances "are cleaned and serviced and ready for winter," says Silva. "Tune-up time."

Winter Heating Tips

  1. Plug ONE heat-producing appliance directly into an electrical outlet and avoid plugging the appliance into a power strip/extension cord.
  2. Keep 3ft. of open space around heat sources such as fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, etc.
  3. Use portable generators, camp stoves, grills, etc. outside and at least 20ft. away from the home to prevent Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

Your Car

  1. Check your antifreeze. "The most important thing is antifreeze," says Bob Cerullo, author of "What's Wrong with My Car?" What you do depends on where you live and whether or not you've added water to the antifreeze during the year. If you live in a place that gets really cold in the winter and you've added a substantial amount of water to the antifreeze since last winter, you probably want to flush it out and start fresh. Otherwise, you probably only have to flush it every three to five years, as the owner's manual dictates, says Cerullo. Other signs of bad antifreeze: it's discolored or "has a strong odor." You can also test your antifreeze with a hydrometer, which will tell you to what specific temperature it can protect you, says Cerullo.
  2. Examine the belts and hoses. "If belts are worn, the engine can overheat," says Cerullo. Similarly, if the rubber hoses that connect the engine to the radiator deteriorate, you can lose coolant and overheat, he says.
  3. Look at the tires. Depending on where you live, winter means snow and ice or sometimes just a lot of rain. In any event, you need tires with a good amount of tread so that you have traction. "A worn-out tire where the grip is very thin is not going to work as well," says Cerullo. And check the pressure while you're at it. Tire pressure changes as the temperature drops. Just because it was right in July doesn't mean it's still good, says Cerullo. Match it against the recommendation on the inside of your car doorjamb or the auto owner's manual. "Never go by what's printed on the tire," he says.
  4. Re-evaluate your wiper blades. Make sure they're in good shape. And if you live in an area prone to ice and rain, you might want to consider winter wiper blades. They feature a "special blade wrapped in rubber film that keeps leakage from freezing," Cerullo says. They are about the same price as regular blades, he says. "A lot of people leave them on [all year] and they work fine." And while you're at it, make sure that you have wiper fluid that will withstand the cold temperatures you'll encounter.
  5. Assemble a cold-weather car kit. This is especially important if you drive cold, lonely roads or areas prone to snow and ice, says Cerullo. Include a coat (in case you have to walk), blankets, nonperishable food (put it in a coffee can or lunch box), water, candles with matches and -- most importantly -- a working cell phone to call for help.

Winter Vehicle Emergency Kit Contents

Your vehicle’s emergency kit should be tailored to the relevant weather. Items to include:

  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Matches
  • Hat and gloves
  • First Aid Kit
  • Tow rope or chain
  • Distress flag and flares
  • Hand warmers