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Madisonians: Have a healthy holiday season

Winter is full of physical and mental dangers. Be prepared.

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Winter is here. It’s time to take stock of our physical health and be wary of winter’s dangers. | Photo by 608today

Winter’s wrath is nearly upon us. Though it’s been unseasonably warm these last months and we’ve only had a few measurable days of snow, Jack Frost is always lurking.

That said, it’s time to take stock of our physical health and be wary of winter’s dangers.


Each year in the US, about 1,330 people die of cold exposure, essentially freezing to death. You might picture Leonard DiCaprio in some sort of terrible “Revenant” situation, but cold-related deaths and illnesses occur anywhere, cities included.

Avoid hypothermia and frostbite by:

  • Wearing several layers of loose, warm clothing
  • Limit the amount of time you’re outside
  • Change out of wet and/or cold clothes ASAP, especially hats, gloves, and socks
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Be careful in the cold. About 1,330 people die nationally every year of cold exposure. | Photo by 608today

Heart stressors

Low temperatures increase the risk of heart attacks. In reaction to cold, your blood vessels constrict to conserve body heat. This increases your blood pressure, adding stress to your heart. Your blood platelets start to clump, raising the risk of a blood clot.

The American Heart Association reports deaths every year among people shoveling their sidewalks. Anyone with a history of high blood pressure, heart disease, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, or a history of smoking should be wary.

Some precautions one can take:

  • Dress warmly
  • Avoid strenuous activities if you don’t do them regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Limit alcohol and tobacco use
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About 200,000 people nationally receive medical treatment from winter sports. | Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Stay safe playing outside

Sixteen snowmobilers died in Wisconsin in 2022, according to the DNR. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 200,000 people nationally receive medical treatment from winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and sledding.

Though outside play can be fun, it can also lead to serious injury. You can avoid spills and sprains:

  • Sled feet first and away from busy roads and parking lots
  • Wear a helmet
  • If you fall, try to land on your rear
  • If renting equipment, make sure it fits properly before use

Prevent dry skin

Did you know that Carmex was created by Wisconsinite Alfred Woelbing? He created it in his kitchen during the 1930s. Woelbing began selling the lip balm from the trunk of his car.

Speaking of Carmex, winter can be brutal on one’s skin.

  • Avoid using antibacterial soap. They generally contain skin-drying ingredients
  • Use creams and ointments containing ceramide, an ingredient that helps protect your skin barrier
  • Use hand cream after washing or sanitizing your hands

Seasonal depression

It happens. Seasonal affective disorder impacts about 5% of US adults for 40% of each year. The “winter blues” is associated with a chemical imbalance in the brain that occurs when people are exposed to less daylight.

With sunset seemingly occurring lately around lunchtime, many people experience symptoms of sadness, a loss of interest in hobbies and activities, appetite and sleep changes, and more.

If you’re feeling particularly blue, see your primary care provider.

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Viral infections have been on the rise recently in Madison. | Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Viral infections

Viral infections spike during the winter months. There’s been an uptick locally. With common colds, COVID-19, the flu, and pneumonia circulating, take precautions.

  • Be aware of vaccination options
  • Wash your hands
  • Stay home and isolate if you’re sick
  • Eat, sleep, and exercise well

Winter can be a wondrous time. We can all do our part to make that so by taking care of ourselves. And, again, it bears repeating, do not get yourself into any sort of “Revenant” situation.

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