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Cold weather survival guide: Protecting your home, car, pets, self from freezing temperatures

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Posted at 8:24 AM, Dec 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-16 23:45:32-05

Plummeting temperatures could wreak havoc on your home, car and even cause serious medical problems.

Denver7 has covered many of these issues in the last couple of days. Here is what you need to know to keep the sub-zero temperatures from affecting you.

Keep your car going in the cold weather

The cold temperatures is hard on your car, especially the battery. To avoid a dead battery in the morning, AAA advises removing items like your phone, iPod or GPS from your lighter socket.

Another big issue? The tires in your car.

The bitter cold air makes your tires more brittle and they lose air pressure. Even if your tires are in good shape they may not be by the end of the week.

AAA officials said by the end of this cold snap everyone will need to check their tire pressure. 

Winter driving tips

Drivers are advised to slow down and provide distance between cars in front of them, as black ice isn't easily visible. 

In addition to driving intelligently, there are a host of items every driver should keep handy on a daily Colorado basis in the winter. 

1.) First-aid kit. 
In the event of a crash, a buffed up first-aid kit could be life or death. In the event of a small cut, it certainly would come in handy. Truly, there's no reason not to keep one in your car year-round. 

2.) Anti-freeze.
Keep a jug of winter-ready window fluid around at all times, as you never know when it might come in handy. 

3.) Car kit.
Average car kits come with some hyper useful things, like jump cables. Winter and cold temperatures have a habit of draining batteries on all devices, including your car. A helpful hint is to include a blanket in every car kit, or at least nearby. 

4.) A small shovel.
For those times when you forget to slow down and end up in a snow bank, a shovel will help bail you out. It also can help in a pinch if more snow falls than expected while at work. For those who park on the street during the winter, not owning a shovel could be costly.

5.) Kitty litter.
In addition to providing a bit of weight in the truck (helpful for those cars that don't have four-wheel drive), kitty litter can help provide much-needed traction in the event of a vehicle getting stuck. You'll look silly toting it around, but you'll thank every cat in the world once kitty litter bails you out. 

Keep the freeze from your home

The deep freeze in Colorado means plumbers are ready for broken pipes and faulty furnaces.

To prevent your pipes from freezing, open the cabinets and leave water dripping from the faucet.

If your pipes are frozen, you can try thawing them out yourself with a hair dryer or calling a plumber to use more professional methods.

Tips to staying warm

1. Wear a hat
Mom was right. Keep your head covered because every bit of exposed skin allows heat to exit your body. It may not be the absurdly high percentage your mom told you it was, but more skin exposed means more heat loss — and your head is no exception.

2. Layer up
The number of layers necessary is dependent on the temperature and your tolerance for cold. In other words, the colder it is, the more layers you'll likely need, but the innermost and outermost layers are most important.

The layer next to your skin should be made of synthetic or other material that can transport any perspiration away from your body. Your outermost layer should act as a shell that can protect you from wind, rain and snow, which brings us to our next tip.

3. Stay dry
If you're not dry, your body will stay cold that much longer. That means keeping your body dry from both the outside elements like rain and snow as well as from your own perspiration.

If this rule is broken, you'll need to go inside and warm up that much faster.

4. Limit your time outside
Don't linger outside for long. In extreme cold temperatures, exposed skin can become frostbitten in as little as 30 minutes. Wind can make it feel even colder by carrying away away any warmth your body may be trying to produce.

Avoid frost bite

Frostbitten skin is hard, pale, cold, and has no feeling. When skin has thawed out, it becomes red and painful (early frostbite). With more severe frostbite, the skin may appear white and numb (tissue has started to freeze). Severe frostbite requires immediate medical attention.

If you think you have frostnip or frostbite, there are more don'ts than do's.

  • Do NOT rub or massage the affected area. That can cause more damage to the frostbitten area.
  • Do NOT thaw out a frostbitten area if it cannot be kept thawed. Refreezing may make tissue damage even worse.
  • Do NOT use direct dry heat (such as a radiator, campfire, heating pad, or hair dryer) to thaw the frostbitten areas. Direct heat can burn the tissues that are already damaged.
  • Do NOT disturb blisters on frostbitten skin.
  • Do NOT smoke or drink alcoholic beverages during recovery as both can interfere with blood circulation.

Wear suitable clothing in cold temperatures and protect exposed areas. In cold weather, wear mittens (not gloves); wind-proof, water-resistant, many-layered clothing; two pairs of socks (cotton next to skin, then wool); and a hat or scarf that covers the ears (to avoid substantial heat loss through the scalp).

Take care of your pet

If the humans of Colorado are shivering despite coats and clothes, imagine how cold our four-legged companions are. 

1.) The first tip for pet owners is a common sense one -- if it's too cold for your skin to be uncovered, it's too cold for pets to remain outside for extended periods of time. 

Pay attention to the signs, including dogs or cats attempting to keep their feet off the pavement, signifying their paws are freezing. 

Some other tips may be helpful for those who haven't endured a harsh winter before, or need a refresher course on pet ownership. 

2.) Dry off your pet with a towel as soon as you bring the pet inside. 

When water evaporates, it takes heat with it. So one of the best options for warming a cold pet up is using a towel to rub down and dry off a pet after bringing them indoors. This both removes water, preventing evaporation, and uses friction to help generate warmth. 

3.) Don't give your dogs haircuts in the harsh winter. 

Dogs have fur for a reason, and it grows to lengths that will help keep the animal warm in the winter. Cutting a dog's hair too short can lead to the dog becoming too cold too quickly. 

4.) Many snow/ice fighting chemicals are dangerous for pets. 

The pads on your pet's paws are very similar to skin, meaning the chemicals used to fight ice and more could very well hurt your pets by burning their skin or making them ill. The second pets are brought in the house, wash their feet and brush them off to make sure no chemicals are in their fur. 

5.) Bathing your pets as infrequently as possible, or doing the chore indoors. 

Bathing your pets during the winter is risky business. It could play with their body temperature and as it can take time for fur to dry out, it could be dangerous when they run outside. 

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