10 common winter dangers—and tips to keep you safe (Photo: Reviewed.com)
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Whether it’s storming or just kind of cold, existing throughout the winter can sometimes feel like an act of heavy perseverance. With the harsh winds and frigid temps outside, coupled with finicky heaters and fireplaces inside, it can be a little dangerous, too—particularly if you’re less mobile than you used to be. Here are some things you can do to stay safe and healthy throughout the winter, both inside and out of the house.
1. Stay warm without creating safety hazards
A blanket you can wear and a space heater can help keep you warm on extra-chilly days. (Photo: Reviewed / Amanda Tarlton & Jon Chan)
The safest way to keep cozy indoors (without blowing up your heating bill) is to bundle yourself up with extra blankets. We like the Big Blanket—which is an enormous, snuggly, sharable blanket—or The Comfy, a cozy blanket-meets-sweatshirt combination that reviewers say is so warm, it can help cut back on heating bills.
The CDC also recommends space heaters, kerosene heaters (if they’re legal in your area), or an up-to-code fireplace as alternative, additional heat sources. That said, space heaters can present a hazard if they’re used incorrectly. Make sure you place yours in a dry, open, well-ventilated space at least three feet away from anything flammable, such as drapes, bedding, furniture, or towels. You should also consider a space heater with built-in safety features. We’ve tested a bunch and love the De’Longhi HMP1500, which has an automatic temperature cutoff to prevent overheating and turns off and sounds an alarm if tipped over. You can also get a space heater with a built-in timer, like the Lasko 5572, which can be set to turn itself off and has a remote control that allows you to adjust it without touching the machine.
Whatever you do, don’t rev up the oven or stove as a means of warmth if your heat goes out or you’re just feeling chilly on a cold winter night. If an oven is left on for too long, it becomes a fire hazard, and if it’s a gas oven, it could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Get the Big Blanket for $149
- Get The Comfy on Amazon for $39.99
- Get the De’Longhi HMP1500 on Amazon for $99.39
- Get the Lasko 5572 on Amazon for $70.99
2. Keep your fireplace clean and well-attended
Your fireplace area should be cleaned weekly. (Photo: Panacea / Craftsman)
What does an up-to-code fireplace entail? In short, ensuring it is clean and well-ventilated. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends having your fireplace and chimney inspected at least once a year to keep it clear of debris, unencumbered by any blockages, and free of nesting animals who may have decided to make it their home.
Once your chimney has the all-clear and you decide to build a fire, never leave it unattended. Concerned you may forget to put it out? Set a reminder on your phone so you have something else to hold you accountable.
There are some ways to clean out a chimney on your own (especially if you have a shop vac), but you’ll probably want to hire a professional chimney sweep for heavy-duty cleanings. In the meantime, keep it tidy between fires by vacuuming the hearth area and cleaning out the firebox about once a week. You can do this with a mini shovel and bucket that you keep right by the fireplace, or a simple dustpan and brush.
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- Get the Casabella Dustpan on Amazon for $.91
- Get the Panacea Ash Bucket with Shovel on Amazon for $33.82
3. Install a smoke and carbon monoxide detector
An effective, easy-to-use, smoke and carbon monoxide detector is a household essential. (Photo: Reviewed / Camryn Rabideau)
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are vital home additions at any time of year. But having that line of protection is especially useful in the winter, when you are using more artificial sources of heat, which increases the risk of a house fire and airborne carbon monoxide, an odorless gas that displaces oxygen in the body and can cause suffocation.
Of all the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors we’ve tested, we like the Nest Protect best. Why? It has a thorough yet easy-to-understand setup and connects to a smartphone app that tells you the degree of concern you should have for the smoke, which ranges from warnings like “Heads Up” to “Emergency.”
Get the Nest Protect on Amazon for $114.94
4. Dress for the weather
Layering and wearing shoes with good traction can help you stay comfortable in the winter. (Photo: Patagonia / L.L. Bean)
Heading outside? Layering up is key to your comfort and safety. The CDC recommends wearing three layers of loose-fitting clothing, including an inner layer that holds in body heat and rejects moisture (ideally a fabric like silk, wool, or polypropylene), a middle insulation layer with a fabric like wool, fleece, or goose down, and an outer layer coat that’s tightly woven and water resistant.
You’ll also want to wear a hat to keep heat from escaping from your head and gloves to prevent your digits from going numb. If it’s snowing, insulated, waterproof boots—like L.L. Bean’s Bean Boots—are also necessary.
- Get the Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece from REI for $139 in men’s and women’s sizes
- Get Bean Boots from L.L. Bean starting at $139
- Get Haarms Touchscreen Leather Gloves on Amazon for $27.99
- Get the Carhartt Acrylic Watch Hat on Amazon for $18.97
5. Be methodical when doing outdoor activities
Make sure to move with intention when doing any outdoor activity in the cold. (Photo: Getty Images / FluxFactory)
Physical activity on cold days can put a greater strain on your heart than it might on more mild days, according to the American Heart Association. So if you’re getting your heart pumping outside in the cold—whether that entails shoveling snow or taking a walk around the block—move with more caution than you might on warmer days, particularly if you have a history of cardiovascular disease. Slow, measured movements can also prevent slips and spills on icy ground.
6. Take care with ice and snow removal
Getting the right shovel can help you avoid strain. (Photo: Reviewed / Dan Roth)
Falling snow or glazing ice is a two-fold safety problem: One, it traps you in the house so you can’t get out in case of emergency and two, it can be dangerous to remove it so you’re not trapped. Start by creating a safe path for yourself from the door with a shovel (if needed) and by putting down sand or salt as you go. This will help melt ice and improve traction underfoot. Pro tip: Table salt can be used instead of chemical salt in a pinch.
When it comes to shoveling, make sure the bulk of the movement is happening with your legs—not your back—and take breaks when you need to. You can also save yourself some post-shoveling pain by using a good shovel, like our test-topping Forest Hill Aluminum Snow Shovel, which can pick up a lot of snow at once without causing too much strain. You can also get a snow blower if you’re really not feeling the idea of scooping snow yourself.
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- Get Green Gobbler Pet Safe Ice Melt on Amazon for $37.99
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7. Get your car inspected
Make sure to give your car a thorough inspection at least once every season. (Photo: Getty Images / welcomia)
It’s especially vital in the winter months to ensure that every part of your car is in good working order—especially if you plan on taking any road trips up (and down) a mountain for a ski trip. The Car Care Council recommends a yearly maintenance check on the parts of the car most affected by cold weather. This includes the brakes, battery, antifreeze (which should be flushed and replaced every two years), tires, oil, and lights and wipers. (We tested and love the PIAA 95055 Super Silicone wipers, which provide a clean wipe against any obstruction.) Not sure if your car is ready for the season? Take it in for an inspection.
Get the PIAA Super Silicone Wipers on Amazon for $22.01
8. Keep extra supplies in your car, not in the trunk
Keep your supplies close by so they're there when you need them. (Photo: OXO / AmazonBasics)
Putting some extra supplies in your car—like an ice scraper, snow brush, a small shovel, a first aid kit, and a blanket—is a wise idea. If possible, try to keep the gear in the backseat, not in the trunk. It’ll be right where you need it if you end up getting stranded and you won’t have to mess with a potentially frozen-shut hatch.
- Get the OXO Good Grips Ice Scraper and Brush on Amazon for $19.99
- Get the Lifeline Collapsible Shovel on Amazon for $22
- Get the First Aid Only kit on Amazon for $14.99
- Get the AmazonBasics Soft MicroMink Sherpa Throw on Amazon for $33.99
9. Install handrails in icy areas
Having a handrail in a sloped, icy spot can make a big difference in overall safety. (Photo: Getty Images / Astrid860)
You can reduce your chances of slipping, falling, and straining or breaking a limb in your own backyard by installing handrails in sloped areas that become hard to walk on after a snowfall. If handrails aren’t available—or even if they are and it’s a particularly snowy and icy day—maintain your balance by wearing shoes with rugged traction and taking slow, steady steps.
10. Eat veggies and protein-rich foods
Eating fruits, veggies, and protein can help you feel balanced all winter. (Photo: Getty Images / Foxys_forest_manufacture)
Eating your fruits, veggies, and protein will help you improve immune function and reduce inflammation, which can help you stay more comfortable in the cold, according to UMPC Pinnacle. Obviously, eating a spinach and salmon salad with an orange for dessert isn’t going to replace your down coat, even if it is a great source of iron, protein, and vitamin C. But consistently eating whole, healthy foods (with the occasional cookie—to boost morale, of course) is a great way to maintain peak immune function all winter. If you need some inspiration, consider signing up for an “ugly” produce subscription, which brings healthy, affordable (if slightly imperfect) fruits and veggies right to you door.
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