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Be Ready for Extreme Cold This Winter

January 3, 2018

Jake looked up at me with his dark brown eyes. He appeared kind of sad.

He was standing by his blue sweater, which one of my daughters had removed. She thought he was too warm in his wooly sweater because he already has a fur coat

Yes, Jake is a dog. Our bitterly cold January weather has made him want to wear clothes. His brothers try to wiggle out of their striped and argyle sweaters, even though they look quite handsome. Next, Jake will be looking for snow boots before he ventures outside very briefly a few times a day. We all need to minimize the time our pets spend outdoors in the cold weather.

I’m with Jake. I don’t want to go outside very often in these frigid temperatures, and I want to be swaddled in warm clothing. Cold weather can be deadly.

Let’s review a few things to stay nourished, safe and warm this winter. The answers, which are based on “Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), follow.

  1. Which two age groups are particularly vulnerable to cold weather?
  2. Imagine you are snowbound and the furnace goes out. You are staying warm with a fireplace. What are three categories of items you should have on hand?
  3. What types of beverages should you limit when you are trying to stay warm? (These beverages cause your body to lose heat more quickly.)
  4. What type of hand covering keeps your hands warmer: mittens or gloves?
  5. In dressing for cold temperatures, we all know that layering is the best option. Name at least two types of material best for the inner layers of clothing.
  6. What is the name given to an abnormally low body temperature? What should you do if you come upon a person with this condition and medical help is not immediately available?
  7. Besides keeping your gas tank “topped up” (full), can you name at least 10 things you should keep in your winter survival kit in your vehicle?


  1. Infants and older adults are most vulnerable to cold conditions, but anyone can be affected. Infants lose body heat quickly and are unable to shiver, so be sure their rooms are warm and they are dressed appropriately. Older adults also produce less body heat due to a slower metabolism.
  2. Keep foods on hand that require no cooking or refrigeration, such as bread, crackers, canned food, and trail mix with dried fruits, nuts and chocolate. Be sure you have a safe supply of water in jugs or bottles in case the water pipes freeze or rupture. Be sure you have a supply of any prescription medication you take.
  3. Limit caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. Warm, sweet beverages, such as cocoa, and broth-based soup are considered more warming.
  4. Most of us know the answer to this one from experience: mittens are better than gloves for maintaining warm hands.
  5. Wool, silk or polypropylene clothing holds in body heat better than cotton as inner layers. Top your layers with a tightly woven, wind-resistant coat.
  6. Hypothermia is a dangerous condition because it also affects your brain and ability to think about what to do. Hypothermia can occur at cool temperatures (40 F) if a person gets wet from falling into water. If a person is shivering, confused, has slurred speech and is very tired, take the person’s temperature. According to the CDC, a body temperature below 95 F is a medical emergency. Get the person in a warm area, remove wet clothing and warm the person with blankets and dry, warm clothing. Give warm beverages if the person is conscious. Get medical attention immediately.
  7. Be sure you have a phone, blankets, a first-aid kit, waterproof matches and a can (to melt snow for water), windshield scraper, booster cables, tow rope, shovel, flashlight and batteries, high-calorie canned or dried food, a can opener, water source and several other items. See for more information.

I love soup as a warming, comforting meal on a cold winter night. Here’s a recipe and nutrition analysis courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Council. The recipe was created by Barb Liebenstein of Wolf Creek Dairy in Minnesota.

Creamy Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup
2 Tbsp. butter

1 medium onion diced (about 1 cup)

1 c. chopped white mushrooms

1/2 c. diced carrots

3 c. low-fat milk

1/4 c. flour

2 c. chicken broth, low sodium

2 c. cooked wild rice

3/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese

2 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, chopped (optional)

In a large pot, heat butter over medium heat. Add onions, mushrooms and carrots; saute until onions are soft (about 10 minutes). Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, whisk milk and flour over medium heat, stirring frequently, until milk starts to boil. Whisk constantly for one minute or until milk thickens. Pour into onion mixture and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in chicken broth and cooked rice; cook for 10 to 15 minutes (or until carrots are soft). Ladle into bowls and top each serving with 2 tablespoons cheese and 1 teaspoon parsley. Makes six servings. Each serving has 326 calories, 15 grams (g) fat, 17 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber and 381 milligrams sodium.

Source: North Dakota State University