Brrrrr! Cold weather tips if you have medical needs or pets (or pets with medical needs)

northwest_storm_2012_03-sacramento-bee
photo courtesy SacBee.com

Will it snow or won’t it snow? Oh mother nature, why must you be so fickle? But one thing we do know: if it snows, even a dusting creates havoc for drivers, creating road closures and traffic snarls. In our defense (I’m looking at you, smirking midwesterners and transplants from Boston), our steep hills and temperatures that dip and rise, melting snow then refreezing into ice, are just the right recipe for jackknifing buses and sliding vehicles.

Bad roads can be hazardous to your health

So what do treacherous roads have to do with health, other than potential for car collisions? When roads are impassable or closed, that makes it hard for people to get to their medical appointments or get crucial medical supplies. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead when you hear a forecast for possible snow or severe winter weather if you have medical needs.

Things to consider if you depend on:

  • Oxygen tanks, medication prescriptions, or other medical supplies: Plan with your doctor, pharmacist, or medical service provider about what to do if they can’t be delivered or if you can’t get to the pharmacy. Ask your doctor and/or pharmacist if you can have a 3-day emergency supply.
  • Medical equipment powered by electricity (beds, breathing equipment or infusion pumps ): Check with your medical supply company and get information regarding a back-up power source such as a battery or generator.
  • Intravenous and feeding tube equipment: Know if your infusion pump has battery back-up, and how long it would last in an emergency. Ask your home care provider about manual infusion techniques in case of a power outage.
  • Dialysis:
    • Make back-up arrangements for transportation, such as asking a friend with an all-wheel drive vehicle to help you get to your dialysis appointment.
    • Get information about other dialysis facilities in your area. Find out if they provide the type of treatment you need.
    • Contact the facility to be sure they can treat you if an emergency occurs and you cannot use your regular facility.
    • Know what diet to follow if your dialysis must be delayed.

Double whammy: power outage and cold weather

Even if you don’t have these specific medical conditions, everyone should be prepared in case power goes out. If winds pick up, that can lead to downed power lines. If you lose heat, don’t try to tough it out. Find a friend who still has heat, or go to a heated public place, like the library or mall. Some cities may open warming centers to give people a warm place to go. In King County, you can check the King County Emergency News blog for updated information and in Seattle, follow Alert Seattle.

If you have no electricity, make sure that you avoid carbon monoxide poisoning! Always use generators outside, away from open windows and vents. NEVER use a generator indoors or in a garage, and NEVER use a charcoal or gas grill indoors.

rqpy1rkgv1rxkFur coats aren’t always enough

Finally, look out for your furry buddies. If your pet depends on medication, keep a 3-day emergency supply, just as you would for yourself. Keep your pets indoors as much as possible and dry them off with a towel or gentle blow dry. Don’t leave your pets (or young children!) in a cold car–it can quickly become a freezer, leading to hypothermia. And this could be the excuse to get that ADORABLE sweater for your short-haired pets. C’mere, Fifi, I’ve got a lovely knit with reindeer on it…

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I am a risk communications specialist at Public Health - Seattle & King County.

2 thoughts on “Brrrrr! Cold weather tips if you have medical needs or pets (or pets with medical needs)

  1. Great edition of the newsletter with valuable information for those of us with medical needs to think of. I don’t know who’s furry baby that is but it’s adorable and made me smile today.

    Thanks!

    1. Heidi, so glad it was helpful! I wish I knew whose pup that is too–I have to confess that I found it on a public image site. I had hoped to post a picture of my brother’s adorable French Bulldog in his sweater, but it didn’t work out. Not every furry buddy loves a sweater.

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