Sol G. says: BRRR! Dressing safely for the cold.

If you’re new to Boston and no one warned you, please accept my heartfelt sympathies. By now, you’ve discovered New England’s terrible secret: we can live with the cold. Not happily-oh, no- but with dogged determination. In spite of weather that makes ice cubes of our tears, we don’t move to places that make more sense.

It’s one thing to go out in this weather. It’s another to do so safely. People get frostbite in this weather, and it happens when you don’t expect it, when you unexpectedly end up out in the cold longer than you thought. I figured I’d better offer some safety tips, for those of you new to the cold (and for those of you who live locally. Young lady without a jacket at the 7-11 this morning, I’m looking at you.)

MEMA, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, is a website you should know. They offer emergency information, and they’re the ones who will tell you about when there’s a state of emergency declared. (This is vital information for people who have to get their cars off the street, believe me. I rented an apartment with a parking space because the addition of the parking space is cheaper than the fines and towing fees that you can stack up in a snowy winter in Boston.)

There are some basic things to remember when getting ready to go off to class.

  • First of all, if you have online access to classes, and it’s this cold out, don’t hesitate to use that distance option, especially if you either don’t have reliable transportation or would have to walk any long distances.
  • Eat breakfast. Seriously- your body is going to need that energy for heat. In our case, a lot of classes are in the evening, so pack some hearty, healthy snacks to give you energy.
  • Dress for the weather, not for fashion. Start with basic long underwear, if you have it. If not, look for soft, breathable undershirts and leggings. Yes, men can wear long underwear or leggings. This is New England. Stay warm.
  • Add a layer of warmth. Sweat pants, wool sweaters, you want a layer of insulation between you and the cold.
  • The outer layer should be windproof. The wind chill factor is severe on days and nights like this, and keeping your heat near your body can make a huge difference in safety, not just comfort.
  • Scarves, mittens, hats, insulating socks. Protect your extremities. Frostbite gets in the way of proper notetaking. Scarves can be annoying, yes, but protecting your luncs from the cold air will help keep you warmer.
  • If you’re outside, keep moving. Keep your blood circulating.
  • Don’t get wet. This goes well beyond not walking on the Charles (it isn’t as frozen as it looks) or avoiding puddles. If it snows, if you get splashed, if your breakfast smoothie spills on your clothes, GET INSIDE. Don’t expect it to dry in this weather-it will freeze.
  • If you’re going for the hot drink solution, stay away from caffeine and alcohol. While these may make you feel warmer, they actually change your blood flow and you lose heat.
  • Hot packs and handwarmers are a skier’s secret to staying warm. When it gets terribly cold, I like the thermacare heatwraps instead (they’re larger.)
  • If you’re using space heaters, remember to leave room around them. Oil burning stoves, etc., give off carbon monoxide and require ventilation. Any kind of heater can cause a fire if you leave it unattended or fall asleep, so you’re better off using it to warm up your area and then turning it off when you go to bed.

If, like me, you love an electric blanket, remember to check it regularly for cracks or signs of wear, and again, turn it off/unplug it before bed.

Know the signs of hypothermia, too. When your body gets too cold, you start shivering. eventually, though, it progresses to confusion and loss of muscular control. Know what to do if this happens. This is information that can save a life. (As an added bonus, here are symptoms and treatments for frostbite.)

And of course, if you do make it out, there are always things to do.  Stay warm, stay safe. Be careful out there and don’t let our nonchalance fool you- we all hate the cold. Living here means taking it seriously. It also means pretending we don’t care, just to impress the tourists. Have fun with it, but don’t take it too far.

And to the beautiful young lady without her jacket: PLEASE, please wear more than your Harvard sweatshirt when you’re out in this weather. We know you’re proud of your school. We’re all proud of you, too. We’d be prouder if you dressed for the weather. (Hint: the Coop sells jackets!) We love you. Please, stay warm!

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