While winter is a joyous season filled with holiday parties, family gatherings, and gift-giving, it can also be one of the deadliest times of the year. Weather-related injuries and illnesses afflict millions during the cooler months, as people may fail to take adequate health and safety precautions. The likelihood of injury or illness often depends on factors such as the temperature both indoors and out, humidity levels, air quality, and one’s age and state of health. To ensure a safe holiday season in the face of imminent winter hazards, follow these tips.

Keep Warm

While this may seem obvious, hypothermia is one of the biggest causes of death among the elderly and children, as their bodies cannot adjust well to cold weather. When venturing outdoors, be sure to dress appropriately. In order to adjust to changing weather conditions, dress in layers, and avoid overdressing or overexertion, as this can lead to heat illness.

For indoor warmth, be sure to adjust your thermostat and make use of your central heating system. To spot heat areas or add supplemental heat, consider purchasing an inexpensive space heater to cost-effectively boost the temperature of your home.

Ensure Proper Humidity Levels

Colder weather means drier air, and improper humidity levels can damage furniture, increase heating costs, and even worse, impact your health. Studies have shown that incorrect humidity levels can cause ailments such as scratchy dry throat, increased allergy symptoms, frequent colds/infections, increased chemical sensitivity, and dry skin and throat. To help humidify the air, consider using a humidifier to increase moisture and to help keep comfortable.

Breathe Clean Air

Because most people keep their windows and doors closed during the winter, this can decrease the ventilation in the home. This in turn also decreases the overall air quality, and can cause increased allergy and asthma symptoms, colds, hay fever, and other respiratory disorders. Also, carbon monoxide poisoning due to poorly maintained furnaces and fireplaces kill roughly 500 Americans each year. To keep the air clean, use an air purifier and consider using an electric fireplace instead of your standard wood-burning or gas fireplace.

Prepare for Long Winter Nights

While seemingly harmless, short days and long nights can influence the well-being of millions of Americans. According to the January 2007 issue of the Harvard Health Letter, time changes and the length of days can throw heart-related hormones off and cause heart problems. Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of clinical depression, can also affect people during the winter. In order to reduce or prevent SAD symptoms, you may want to try increasing the lighting in your home and exercise more, as this can increase both your dopamine and energy levels.

Alicia DeLangis is a writer and editor for Air & Water, Inc.

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