MN Winter Weather Awareness Week, Day 2

Outdoor Winter Safety

Topics for today include specific information about outdoor winter safety and details about protecting yourself and your family during those fun outdoor winter activities. Specific subjects include:

Safe Behavior

  • Never walk on thin ice (less than four inches thick). Don't snowmobile on less than five inches or drive your car on less than eight inches of new, clear ice.
  • Warn your children to stay away from ice-covered ponds and streams.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages, especially when snowmobiling. Alcohol causes the body to lose heat more rapidly, even though one may feel warmer after drinking alcoholic beverages.
  • Avoid overexertion. Cold weather even without physical exertion, puts an extra strain on the heart. If you add to this the strain of heavy physical activity, such as shoveling snow, pushing an automobile or even walking too fast or too far, you risk damaging your body.
  • Watch for FROSTBITE and other symptoms of cold-weather exposure. Frostbite causes loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, tip of nose and ear lobes. If such symptoms are detected, get medical attention immediately. Do not rub with snow or ice. This does not help the condition and, in fact, will make it worse. The best treatment for frostbite is re-warming the affected tissue.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration can be a severe problem.
  • Keep yourself and your clothes dry. Change wet socks and all other wet clothing as quickly as possible to prevent loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses its insulation value and transmits heat rapidly.
  • If paralyzed persons or infants must go outside in severe weather, they should be checked frequently for signs of frostbite.

Winter Attire

  • Dress warmly in loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent and natural wool, if possible.
  • Wear a hat. More than half of body heat is lost through the top of the head.
  • Wear mittens that are snug at the wrist. Mittens offer better protection than, gloves which allow your fingers to cool much faster.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a scarf to help protect lungs from cold air.
  • Attempt to keep your feet as dry as possible. Wear wool socks.

The Scoop About Snow Shoveling


  • While shoveling snow can be good exercise, it can also be deadly for optimistic shovelers who take on more than they can handle. The Minnesota Safety Council offers the following shoveling tips to help you get a handle on safe shoveling.

Safe Behavior

  • Individuals over the age of 40, or those who are relatively inactive, should be especially careful. If you have a history of heart trouble, check with your doctor before shoveling.
  • Avoid shoveling after eating or while smoking.
  • Take it easy. Snow shoveling is a weight-lifting exercise that raises your heart rate and blood pressure. Warm up before starting the job and stretch both before and after shoveling.
  • If possible, shovel only fresh snow — it is easier to shovel than wet, packed-down snow.
  • Push the snow forward rather than lifting it out of the way; pick up only small amounts when needed. Your back will thank you.
  • As with any lifting activity, use your legs, not your back. Legs should be bent and back straight. Bend and "sit" into the movement, allowing large muscle groups to do most of the work.
  • Never work to the point of exhaustion. Take frequent breaks. If your chest feels tight, stop immediately.
  • Dress as you would for any outdoor activity. Dressing in layers is best. Take extra precautions to keep hands and feet warm.

For more info...MN Winter Weather Awareness Home Page

Return to News Archive is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.