December is the most wonderful time of the year. The world is aglow with festive lights reflecting off soft snow. But there come many dangers in celebrating the holidays, and it’s a good idea to know how to combat them.
Carbon Monoxide and Fire
For those with fireplaces or stoves, setting a nice cozy fire is a wonderful way to keep out the cold. The smell of burning firewood promotes a sense of holiday joy as families gather around the warmth. However, there is a dark side to a nice cozy fire. In a poorly ventilated area, carbon monoxide can build up. Carbon dioxide’s much more evil brother, carbon monoxide is virtually undetectable by humans and in large enough doses can render you unconscious, then dead. The best ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning are to ventilate your stove or fireplace and to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
There is also the really bright side to fire. The side so bright you can hardly look at it as it burns your house down. Leaving fires unattended can, in a worst case scenario, end in a raging inferno. Other contributing factors to winter house fires are dry Christmas trees, overused outlets, and festive candles. In order to avoid a catastrophe, monitor how hot chargers and electric devices are getting, sweep up dead pine needles, and blow out candles before leaving for extended periods of time.
Hypothermia, Bites, and Burns
With winter comes snow. Aside from snowballs, snowmen, and snow forts, snow has one purpose: blocking your driveway. Shoveling is an integral part of winter, especially in Massachusetts. Hypothermia and frostbite are the two main hazards when outside in the snow. Hypothermia (quite literally ‘low heat’) can easily be averted with a heavy coat, gloves, boots, and a hat. If one particular area is exposed to extreme cold for a long enough time, you won’t get full hypothermia, just frostbite. Frostbite is when your skin and the tissue beneath it literally freezes. Mild cases are best treated with gradual warming. Note: do not submerge a frostbitten limb in hot water. Your skin would be so numb that you wouldn’t feel until it’s too late that your skin has been burned by the high temperature of the water. If feeling doesn’t return within a short period of time, seek medical help. Severe frostbite can cause complications with nerves and infection.
The greatest fear of drivers whenever there is snow is black ice. As if driving with reduced visibility wasn’t enough, frictionless near-invisible patches of black ice litter the roads. If there has recently been any snow, you should be aware that there could be black ice. The only way to see it coming is to watch the road. Black ice appears much shinier than dull, black pavement and will stand out in good lighting. Should the cars in front of you spontaneously spin out and swerve, there is probably a patch of black ice just in front of you. When you do hit it and feel like you’re losing control of your car, DO NOT PANIC. It seems counter intuitive, but braking will only make it worse. Keeping the steering wheel straight, slowly step off the gas and if you feel the car spinning, lightly turn in the direction you’re spinning. The best way to make it far worse it to panic, slam on the brakes, and try to steer out of it.
In heavy snow and strong wind, telephone poles and wires can snap and break, causing loss of electricity in huge swathes of residential land. Without electricity, you can’t heat your house, you can’t dry clothes, and you can’t cook food. Cold and darkness slowly encroach as night approaches and you have no power. In order to avoid the huge drops in temperature, use a (well-ventilated) fireplace or stove. Enjoy grilled cheese and tomato soup on a candlelit winter night. If you have a generator, use it to power winter essentials like a space heater, lights, and electric blankets. If you have access to either, seek out neighbors, friends, and family who do. Stay with them until power returns and you can go home to a nice, warm house. It’s also important to check on your neighbors and nearby family members to make sure they are okay.
But, all points aside, it’s the holiday season. And while you shouldn’t neglect worrying, you shouldn’t waste every second on it either. Be with friends and family, be jolly and giving, be happy. Bake cookies, wrap presents, go caroling, bake more cookies, go sledding, go skiing, and most important of all, have a happy ChristmaHanuKwanzaakah