Thursday, December 22, 2016

How to Stay Warm in the Outdoors This Winter

We’re already two weeks into December and even less before the winter solstice is upon us. You may be preparing for indoor hibernation – but for those of you who relish the great outdoors during the cold months (or perhaps don’t have a choice but to be outside), we’ve collected a few cold weather safety tips to keep you safe and warm, regardless of how low the thermometer plunges. Read on for these important reminders!

Stay Dry

It’s remarkable how quickly your body temperature can drop if you get wet as you’re braving the elements. Even sweat, which is actually a cooling mechanism to keep you from overheating, will cause issues once you slow down. Try to avoid any risks of getting wet, and pace yourself so as to limit how much you perspire. Of course, there will be instances where you don’t want to slow down. In these cases, if possible, try to reach a more moderate pace 20 or 30 minutes out from the end. This period will act as a sort of cool down so you’re not completely stopping from full-speed-ahead (and freezing in your fresh layer of sweat).

Another note on sweating: adjusting the number of layers you wear will help, so make sure you’re adding or pulling off what you need to in order to avoid getting too hot (or cold). Gage this on the temperature, humidity, wind levels and your level of activity.

Take Breaks

Breaks are a given with any physical exertion you do. While taking a break in the wintertime, sit on your pack – or whatever you’ve got – so you’re not sitting directly on the ground. Otherwise, the ground will suck away your body’s heat via thermal conduction. Any distance you can keep between the two will help your body hold its warmth.

And while you’re on this coveted break, aim for taking it in a sunny spot, if at all possible. Take advantage of nature’s ultimate heater – you’ll certainly feel the difference between sun and shade, even on the coldest of days.

Mittens over Gloves

Mittens may seem best suited for 3-year-olds, tied together under their coat so they’re not lost. But in reality, keeping skin-to-skin contact between your fingers will actually hold warmth more than separating them. That is, of course, as long as you don’t need a lot of maneuverability. We all know trying to do almost anything with our hands while wearing mittens is a challenge – so gloves can be a better option to get the job done. But if dexterity isn’t required, mittens are golden.

If you do choose to wear gloves, bring along a back-up pair that you can keep warm in a pocket in case your hands get cold and you need to switch it up.

Hats – But Not in Lieu of Other Essentials

If you grew up in a cold place, you more than likely have been ingrained with the idea that you need a warm hat to be outside in the wintertime. That’s because of the well-established idea that most body heat escapes through the head. Well, this “fact” has actually been shown to be more of a myth; rather, the more skin that’s exposed, the colder you’ll be because there’s more opportunity for heat to exit the body. Regardless, wearing a hat is still very important – as is covering up every part of your body. 

If you’re going to be out for a fair amount of time, consider bringing along two hats: a heavier one for when you’re exerting yourself less and a lighter one for when you’re working hard so as not to overheat. Switch them as appropriate, and keep the one not being used close to your core so it stays warm and dry.

Stay Hydrated – with Water, That Is

Your body needs plenty of water all the time, but especially while out in frigid temperatures. You become more dehydrated than you realize out there, so it’s important to carry a substantial supply of water with you, wherever that may be. You can add some sugar to it for a surge of energy, or even butter for some flavor and calories. 

Along with this additional intake of water, you should also make sure you’re giving your body enough fuel to energize your expedition. Pack some high-fat snacks, like nuts, to chomp on as you go. Because fat is a slow-burning fuel, you’ll get more out of it if you’re going to be in the great outdoors for a while. 

Don't Let Your Water Freeze

That hydration information we just covered? It’s not going to be very successful if your water is frozen. Keeping your water in liquid form is an extremely important part of staying healthy in the cold. For temperatures down to the low 20s (F), you should be fine using a hydration bladder that’s kept on your body. Just make sure the hose that leads from the sack to your mouth stays clear of water – as this is where it is most likely to freeze – by blowing into it after every sip you take. Any colder than the 20s and you will probably want to use a wide-mouth water bottle instead. Keep the bottle in an insulated sleeve upside-down so when you turn it right-side up to take a drink, any ice that’s formed is at the bottom. Clever, eh?

Feel free to add more tips on staying warm in winter in the comments below – we’d love to hear them! 


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tips for Pet Health & Safety in Winter

The cold is here – and likely to stay – as we work our way up to the dark winter months. Digging through closets for our heavy coats and scarves, hats and gloves is all part of the process to keep ourselves warm while venturing outside. But what about our furry friends? Pets and cold weather aren’t always a good match, so it’s important to take special measures to ensure they safely make it through what can be a tough season with their health and happiness intact.

Here at Paris Farmers Union, we’ve put together a few winter pet safety tips to help your loved pets get through the winter, whether they love frolicking through the snow or would rather stay curled up by the fire for the next four months. Read on to learn more!

  • For pets that stay outside most of the time, they’ll probably need some kind of shelter as protection from the elements. Make sure it’s warm, dry and doesn’t let in drafts. 
  • Imagine wandering through snow drifts barefoot. Doesn’t sound too comfortable, does it? And it’s often not comfortable for pets, either – especially when chunks of snow build up between the pads of their paws. Avoid this discomfort (and the possibility of frostbite) by putting booties on your pet’s paws. They also may like a coat or hat, depending on how thick their own coats are. Warning signs of frostbite are waxy, firm skin and blisters, so keep an eye out for those.
  • Pets that come in and out of your home frequently during the wintertime will start to feel the effects of flaky, itchy skin. Keep your home humidified and towel dry your pet as soon as they come inside to alleviate this discomfort.
  • This may go without saying, but save shaving your pet for the warmer months, as they’ll need as much hair or fur as possible to hold their heat. For animals with long hair, give them a trim to reduce the buildup of snow on their coats.
  • Cold temperatures mean we’re all burning more calories to stay warm – so outdoor pets will probably need more food than usual. Keep an eye on their food bowls, and notice whether or not they’re chomping down more than usual. While you’re at it, make sure their water stays in liquid form; you don’t want your animal to have to lap at a frozen puddle to stay hydrated.
  • Wash and dry your pet’s feet after walks to remove snow balls, salt and any melting chemicals that may line your neighborhood’s streets and sidewalks. You don’t want your pet being exposed to those chemicals by licking them, so best to wash everything off before they’ve got the chance.
  • While we’re on the subject of chemicals, antifreeze is another one that can cause serious harm to your pet if ingested. If you’re using antifreeze on your vehicle(s), be sure not to leave any spills behind that an animal could lap up. If your pet starts to convulse or act drunk and you suspect they could have been exposed to antifreeze, contact your vet as soon as possible. 
  • Baths should be avoided during low temperatures, as they’ll remove essential oils your pet needs and increase dryness of their skin. 
  • Ever started your car on a cold winter day to see a screeching cat jump out from beneath your hood? A warm motor is the perfect place for kitties to curl up next to – until the engine rears up for its next ride. So before starting your car, give your hood a couple taps to make sure no creatures have found their way inside. 
  • If temperatures are really low, consider bringing outdoor pets inside. It’s not a good idea to stay out in the frigid air for too long, so it may be wise to venture out only for your pets to relieve themselves and then head back indoors. 

Your pets may not be able to tell you how much they dislike being cold, but rest assured, they feel that same air you do and know when enough is enough. Keep them happy and warm with these tips, and you’ll be on your way to enjoying a winter wonderland, however low the temperatures plummet this year!