Your first freeze? 5 ways to survive it

Charles Bryant | 1/9/2014, 6 a.m.
If you're from, say, the Midwest or Northeast or Alaska, dealing with the cold is not only a way of ...

— Keep them horizontal and calm, and reassure them that they're going to be fine. Use each other's body heat to warm up by getting into a sleeping bag together or simply hugging each other tight to create warmth. And, of course, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

3: Wear a hat, despite the myth

You've probably heard the popular myth that you lose most of your body heat through your head. This myth was perpetuated by an outdated U.S. Army survival training manual that stated that 40% to 50% of our body heat is lost through the head. The truth is, you lose the same amount of heat through your head as you would any part of your body that is exposed to the elements However, you're way more likely to go out into the cold without a warm hat, than say, a shirt or a pair of shoes. But just because you don't lose more heat through your head doesn't mean you should leave your winter hat on the rack. Wearing a touque is a great way to assist your heavy coat, gloves, boots and snow pants in keeping all of you warm. Think of it as capping off your winter clothing plan.

4: Keep Hydrated

Hydration isn't just a warm weather worry. Many people forget that you need water in the freezing cold just as much as you do in hot weather. If your pipes are frozen, eating some snow or ice may seem like a great idea, but it will lower your core temperature and actually bring on dehydration. You can melt the snow or ice, but remember that while it can be safe to ingest in more remote locations, drinking water from melted "city snow" is a risk. You'll also want to avoid drinking only coffee or alcohol as a warming technique. I know this one is tough to resist since it may give you a short-term warm up, but it'll dehydrate you much more quickly. If you must indulge, remember to also drink plenty of water along with your coffee or toddy.

5: Light Your Fire

A fire is the best way to fight a winter chill if you're stuck in your home without power. And this means only fireplaces. You should never use your gas oven or stove to warm up under any circumstances as it could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. But if you have a fireplace or a kerosene heater you're in luck. Use your fireplace as your main heat source, and if you can, sleep in the room with it --- just not too close and with a protective fire screen. The last thing you want to do is wake up to find that fire has moved from the fireplace to your living room carpet.

If this vortex leaves you worried that winters could be severe in your part of the country from now on, before the next one, make sure you have a nice stockpile of wood, as it will be tougher to find once a storm hits, and outages can last days or weeks depending on how severe the weather is and how competent our utility company is in restoring power.

And here's a new summer task to consider: Make sure your chimney is clear and clean before the chimney sweeps are all booked up --- and the next vortex swoops down from the north.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Charles Bryant