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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  January 7, 2002

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg and Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160

NJDHSS Issues Winter Weather Advice

TRENTON - As New Jersey heads into the heart of the winter season, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services encourages residents to stay healthy and avoid injuries both at home and outdoors.

Cold weather poses a health hazard all season, not just during extreme cold snaps or heavy snowstorms.

To stay safe indoors, residents should make sure heating systems are working properly. It is a good idea to have heating systems inspected each year, and to install carbon monoxide and smoke alarms near bedrooms and on each floor of the home. Have your fireplace chimney and flue inspected each year and cleaned if needed.

Also, use space heaters carefully, keeping them at least three feet away from anything that can burn. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

The most serious cold-related illness is hypothermia, which can even occur indoors in susceptible persons. Keep indoor temperatures at 68 degrees or above. This is especially important in homes with infants and the elderly.

Hypothermia symptoms include violent shivering at first, followed by a decrease in shivering, distorted speech, confusion and eventually unconsciousness. In addition to advanced age, risk factors include heart disease, chronic lung disease, alcohol consumption and use of sedative drugs.

Other advice for avoiding cold-related illness and injury:

  • Dress in layers while outdoors and remember to wear a hat to help retain body heat. If you get wet, either from heavy sweating while working or from rain or snow, change into dry clothes as soon as possible.
  • Eat well and drink adequate fluids during periods of cold stress. However, avoid drinking alcohol, since it can accelerate the loss of body heat. Alcohol also impairs balance and judgment, which can lead to injury.
  • Many cold-weather injuries result from falls on ice-covered sidewalks and other surfaces around the home. Use rock salt or other chemical de-icing compound to keep walkways, steps, driveways and porches as ice-free as possible.
  • Avoid shoveling snow if you are out of shape. If you have a history of heart trouble, do not shovel unless your doctor approves.
  • Read the owners manual and follow all safety guidelines when using a snow blower. Snow blower use leads to more than 5,000 emergency department visits each year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • If you will be outdoors in the sun for an extended period, remember to use sunscreen and sunglasses, particularly if you are at higher altitudes.
  • Stock your car with emergency gear, such as cell phone, jumper cables, flashlight, sand or kitty litter for extra traction, ice scraper and small shovel, and flares and other warning devices. For long car trips, carry food, water, extra blankets and required medications.

For more information on health-related matters, visit the department's web site at

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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