Ways to maintain and protect your health during the cold winter months
December 16, 2022
Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, Wis. – A cold snap of weather is headed to Wisconsin in the coming days. The cold winter months can pose a risk to our physical health – including our immune system, heart, balance, skin, body temperature and more.
“The cold weather constricts your blood vessels and if you already suffer from certain conditions this could make that condition worse,” says Tyler Bowe, HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals’ trauma coordinator. “Your immune system, heart, skin and potentially your musculoskeletal system are all at risk as we approach the winter months.”
HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals offer the following information and guidance to help protect and maintain your health this time of year:
- Immune system – During winter months, people spend more time inside and in close contact with each other, such as in stores and restaurants. This means flu, colds, and other respiratory illnesses are more easily spread.
- What you can do: Stay up to date on your vaccinations, including flu and COVID-19; wash your hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer; stay home if you’re sick; cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not your hands.
- Heart – Cold weather acts as a vasoconstrictor, which means it narrows blood vessels; this raises the risk of heart attack.
- What you can do: Dress warmly outside with a hat, gloves and a warm coat. If you already suffer from heart issues, limit strenuous activity outdoors that may stress your heart, such as shoveling snow.
- Balance – Icy sidewalks can make falling easier, putting you at risk for fractures.
- What you can do: Avoid slippery surfaces if possible. Wear shoes or boots with heavily textured soles that can grip surfaces. Use handrails, even if you feel you don't need one. You can even “walk like a penguin” by bending slightly forward and walking flat-footed with your center of gravity directly over your feet as much as possible.
- Skin – Dry, winter air can deplete moisture from your skin.
- What you can do: Use a moisturizer with an oil base to block evaporation. Shower in lukewarm—not hot—water. Use a humidifier to replenish moisture to the skin's top layer.
- Body temperature – Older adults are at risk for hypothermia, in which the body's internal temperature falls too low. Even prolonged exposure to mild cold can cause it.
- What you can do: Bundle up if you're going outside and be aware of signs that your body isn't handling the cold well, such as stiffness in the neck, arms and legs. Call 911 if you suspect you or someone you know is suffering from hypothermia.
Additional cold weather safety tips can be found at: www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter
About HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital
HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1889, it has been meeting patient needs in western Wisconsin with the latest medical innovations and technology, together with a Franciscan whole-person healing tradition.
About HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital
HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1885, it has served the people of the Chippewa Falls area with health care that is high tech and high touch. Known locally for the quality of the care it provides patients, the hospital has been recognized nationally for its outstanding patient satisfaction levels.
About Hospital Sisters Health System
Hospital Sisters Health System’s (HSHS) mission is to reveal and embody Christ’s healing love for all people through our high quality, Franciscan health care ministry. HSHS provides state-of-the-art health care to our patients and is dedicated to serving all people, especially the most vulnerable, at each of our physician practices and 15 local hospitals in two states - Illinois (Breese, Decatur, Effingham, Greenville, Highland, Litchfield, O’Fallon, Shelbyville and Springfield) and Wisconsin (Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Oconto Falls, Sheboygan, and two in Green Bay). HSHS is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, and Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the founding institute. For more information about HSHS, visit www.hshs.org. For more information about Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, visit www.hospitalsisters.org.
Communications Department HSHS Wisconsin