Protecting yourself and your car during upcoming cold snap - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Protecting yourself and your car during upcoming cold snap


MADISON (WKOW)-- Extremely cold weather is on its way for most of Wisconsin. While many are busy preparing new years resolutions, one resolution that might save your life is to better prepare yourself and your family for the upcoming cold snap. The best place to start is with your vehicle.

"If you don't have regularly scheduled maintenance done than usually you'll see problems popping up during the winter that have been ignored. Other than that it's just issues that are really enhanced by the cold like the batteries," automotive expert Jim Ward says.

Mechanics stress that if your battery does die you should recharge it as soon as possible. Don't let it sit overnight, because the uncharged fluids in your battery can freeze up and ruin the battery. They suggest keeping a set of jumper cables in your car or even buying what's known as a portable jump pack.

"You can plug it into your wall or charge it in the lighter of a car. The advantage of a device like this is you don't have to have another car to help you out," Ward says.

Keeping an extra bottle of winter formula windshield fluid in your trunk is a good idea. Experts say a poorly cleaned windshield is one of the biggest contributors to car accidents during the winter.

"We've all seen the person who clears a little hole out of the snow on the windshield and tries to drive that way. You can't see around you very well and if you don't clear the snow off the front of your headlights, people can't see you," Ward says.

Car specialists also suggest keeping your gas tank at least half full during these cold temps. Not because your fuel lines will freeze, the amount of ethanol in modern day fuel will be able to handle that, but if you happen to get stranded the extra fuel will keep your car running until help arrives.

During this time of year Wisconsinites for the most part are pretty good about protecting their car, their house and even their pets, but sometimes we forget to protect ourselves. During these extremely cold temps that we're about to see over the next few days, it doesn't take much before you can experience severe health problems.

"This is the type of environment you don't want to be outside in for long periods of time," emergency room physician Dr. Sarah Silver says.

Medical experts say it doesn't take long before the human body starts to develop frost nip, a precursor to frost bite. Emergency physicians say it's more common than you might think. Having your skin exposed for only a matter of minutes can cause significant harm.

"You might have some tingling in your fingers and toes. You might notice that they turn a whiter in color. You see it on the tip of your nose, the ears. It's just from improperly covered tissue. Cover up as best you can," Silver says.

Hypothermia is also a concern, especially for young children and elderly adults. Physicians see numerous patients during the winter with mild cases of hypothermia. They say most were out dining or drinking with friends and didn't dress properly for the weather. Hypothermia can occur even during a short walk to your car after leaving an establishment.

"The signs of early hypothermia would be shivering. The body tends to breathe faster. Your heart rate tends to go up," Silver says. "People don't tolerate cold well at all. The human body is not designed to be outside unprotected in the cold."

During these cold temps a lot of people will start to get restless from staying inside so much. Physicians urge parents to limit their children's outside playing time. Have them come in to warm up every 20-30 minutes or keep them inside altogether.

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