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Safe Winter Outdoor Fun

Sometimes, maybe more than sometimes, when it’s cold outside, curling up in front of the fire with something great to read or binge-watching Netflix sounds great. And while no one should ever discourage others from broadening their horizons with literature and film, it can’t hurt to remember it also feels great to get outside. If you follow some basic “rules” meant to keep you comfortable and safe, there is lots of fun to be had outside in the winter.

Mayo Clinic compiled a solid list of basics to review before enjoying outdoor exercise or other activities in the winter, including checking in with your medical provider to make certain whatever you’re planning is safe for your current physical and health condition(s).

Have you checked the weather?

It’s important to check the day’s forecast; not just the temperature, but also the wind-chill! Wind can be brutal and find its way through warm clothing that seemed appropriate, making hypothermia and frostbite more likely. We’ve seen good resources online that show how significantly the temperature can drop solely due to the wind. Be sure you are aware of the possibilities and make decisions on what you wear and your day’s activities accordingly.

What are the signs of frostbite and hypothermia?

Frostbite in the simplest terms is “injury to your body due to freezing.” Simpler still, it’s BAD! If you begin feeling numbness/loss of feeling or a stinging sensation while outside in the cold, consider those early signs of frostbite and immediately get inside someplace you can start warming up. It is important to learn the proper way to warm an area possibly affected by frostbite, so you don’t make things worse and don’t wait to seek emergency care if necessary.

Hypothermia is different than frostbite, but extremely dangerous as well. Hypothermia isn’t very complicated; it is a body temperature much lower than normal. Immediate emergency care is needed if you notice symptoms such as excessive, uncontrollable shivering, slurring your speech, and problems with coordination.

Dressing in appropriate layers and protecting your head, face, hands, feet, and ears with gloves, socks, scarves, and hats are important to avoid frostbite or hypothermia. It isn’t a bad idea to have extra gloves and socks handy. If your hands or feet sweat, it can be nearly impossible to keep them warm in damp gloves or socks.

Did you know sunscreen and hydration are important in the winter?

As hard as it may be to believe, getting sunburned and dehydrated in the winter is just as easy as in the summer. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection – including lip balm, and protect your eyes from both the sun and glare from the snow with the appropriate UV-blocking eyewear.

Dehydration is a less obvious issue to most of us in the winter since we don’t notice being thirsty as much when it’s cold. But remember, sweating, breathing, dry winter wind, heat in your home all take moisture out of your body, so don’t wait until you feel thirsty to hydrate.

Now that you’re prepared to get out there, here are some fun (and cheap) ideas for outdoor activities to get you started.

  1. Go ice skating (if the water is adequately frozen).
  2. Build a winter bonfire and make s’mores.
  3. Go snowshoeing.
  4. Take your dog for a walk or a hike. Fido will appreciate it.
  5. Go cross-country skiing.
  6. Go sledding.
  7. Build a snow fort.
  8. After you’ve shoveled your driveway and sidewalk, do the same for some elders on your block.
  9. Head out on a photo expedition to take pictures of the winter landscape.
  10. Set up an obstacle course in the yard for your kids or dogs with jumps, tunnels, etc.
  11. Make snow paint by mixing food coloring and in a spray bottle, then go out and paint your yard!

It may seem tough to get going at first, but even if it’s against your natural inclination, make yourself (and your kids) go outside once in a while. You’ll be glad you did. Of course, having some fun ideas in advance is a big help.

Please share photos of you with your family and friends enjoying the outdoors this winter on Instagram, or our Facebook page and use the hashtag, #SEARHCwinter.


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The SEARHC Crisis Help Line, 1.877.294.0074, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to residents of Southeast Alaska.