Prepared Penguins: Tips for a Safe and Healthy Winter

Group Adelie penguins going to the water.

By: Kathryn Landis

Don’t get caught winging it! Follow these tips for a safe and healthy winter.

As the temperatures get colder, make sure you know how to stay warm. Wear warm winter clothes and plenty of extra layers, and listen for radio or television reports of travel advisories issued by the National Weather Service.

Play it Safe Outdoors  

Penguin sliding on iceUnfortunately, we don’t have downy penguin coats to keep warm. When going outside, do not leave areas of the skin exposed to the cold. Learn to recognize the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite.

When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it. Victims of hypothermia are often elderly people with inadequate food, clothing, or heating, babies sleeping in cold bedrooms, and people who remain outdoors for long period.

Warnings signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness. If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95°, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.

Visit CDC’s Outdoor Safety page for more information

Driving in a Winter Wonderland

Driving in severe winter weather can be dangerous and lead to accidents. Be sure to prepare a winter emergency kit for your car.  Include blankets, a flashlight, a shovel, an ice scraper, water and snacks, and a first aid kit. Make sure your car is serviced and has a full gas tank before a storm. Consider signing up for an all-weather driving course in your area to practice winter driving skills, and know what to do if you ever become stranded in your car.

penguin huddleStay Warm and Save $$$

Huddling is great, but may not be enough to keep you warm when winter weather hits. Learn how to prepare your home for winter weather and save on your electricity and heating bills. Insulating walls and attics, and putting weather-strips on doors and windows keeps heat inside and maximizes warmth.

Handle Heating Equipment Safely

When you need to warm up, take proper precautions and review instructions before handling heating equipment and fires. Have your heating system serviced by a qualified technician every year. Make sure fireplaces, wood stoves, and other combustion heaters are properly vented to the outside. Never leave children unattended near a space heater. Learn more by reading CDC’s Indoor Safety Guide.

Don’t Forget Your (Other) Furry Friends

walk like a penguinIf you have pets, make sure to bring them indoors. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they have access to unfrozen water.

Stay Chill around Ice

Walking on ice is dangerous and can cause serious falls on driveways, steps, and porches. Use rock salt or sand to melt the ice on driveways and sidewalks.If walking on ice can’t be avoided, walk like a penguin! Bend your back slightly and point your feet out – this increases your center of gravity. Stay flat-footed and take small steps or even shuffle for more stability. Keep your arms out to your sides to help balance.

Support Each Other

Holding Hands PenguinsAlthough it’s best to not leave the nest when severe winter weather hits, maintain your support network by checking in with family, friends and neighbors. Your neighbors might need extra help before and after a winter storm, so check in to make sure everyone is okay and has adequate heat. Use CDC’s PSAs and Podcasts to help spread winter preparedness messages. We’re all in this together!

Know how to prepare your ‘nest’ for upcoming winter weather using CDC’s Winter Weather Checklists.

A man examines the teeth of a 10-month-old Alaskan Malamute…

A man examines the teeth of a 10-month-old Alaskan Malamute puppy near the South Pole, 1957. Photograph by David Boyer, National Geographic Creative

11 Winter Weather Tips : As Told by Adorable Dogs

Don’t be stuck in the dog house by not preparing for winter weather. Whether it is avoiding frostbite or heating your home safely, make sure you know how to prepare for and handle winter weather.

1. Winter weather can be hair-raisingly unpredictable.

Funny australian shepherd running and enjoy snow time in cloud of snow flying away from his legs

Unusual weather can hit at any time. That’s why it is important to be prepared for all types of weather emergencies. Take actions to prepare for winter weather before a storm impacts your area.

2. Be sure to dress properly for winter weather.

Huge Dogue De Borgeaux dressed with hat, scarf and sweater sitting in the snow

When temperatures drop, it is important to dress warmly, wear plenty of layers, and stay dry. Try to stay indoors when the weather is extremely cold, especially if there are high winds. If you have to go outside, be sure to practice winter weather outdoor safety.

3. Avoid exertion.

Cute small dog under a blanket snuggling with a teddy bear

Winter is a great time to stay in and cuddle. Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. If you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly.

4. Prepare your car for winter weather.

dog sitting in the drivers sear of a car

No one wants to ride unprepared. Always have an emergency kit in your car with supplies you can use if your car breaks down. Prepare your car for winter by following CDC’s guidance.

5. Heat your home safely.

two pugs staring wide-eyed in front of the fireplace

As these guys know, fire can be scary. Not knowing how to safely heat your home or use a wood stove, fireplace, or space heater can be dangerous. Take time to learn about safe ways to heat your home and find more important winter weather indoor safety tips.

6. Create a Support Network.

four husky puppies in a basket

Even if your support network is not as cute as this one, it is important to have one. Having a support network of family and friends to help you during an emergency is very important. Check on your neighbors, and help older adults and the disabled shovel snow for safe walking paths. Use these CDC eCards to invite your friends and family to join your support network.

7. Know how to spot, avoid, and treat Frostbite and Hypothermia.

curly haired dog half burried in snow

Even with a fluffy coat of fur you could be at risk for frostbite or hypothermia in severe winter weather. Know the signs and how to avoid frostbite and hypothermia by following CDC’s Safe and Healthy Winter Weather guidance.

8. Take care of your pets.

pug-dog in winter outerwear pulling on a leash

Pets get cold too! During cold weather bring your pets inside, even if they don’t want to go. As you prepare your home for winter weather, take special measures to care for your pets, make sure they have adequate shelter and access to unfrozen water.

9. Tips for coping with severe weather.

dog covered in snow with large sad eyes

Coping with severe winter weather can be tough. Learn how to manage the stress and emotions of dealing with severe weather or a catastrophic event and how to maintain a healthy state of mind.

10. Avoid ice.

white dog staring at an icicle

Ice can be extremely dangerous. Many cold-weather injuries result from falls on ice-covered sidewalks, steps, driveways, and porches. Keep your steps and walkways as free of ice as possible by using rock salt or another chemical de-icing compound. Sand may also be used on walkways to reduce the risk of slipping.

11. Stay inside during severe winter weather.

Large saint burnard dog sitting on a couch leaning on a man trying to read the paper

When winter weather hits, find a comfy spot and try to stay inside. Staying indoors during extreme cold can help reduce the risk of car crashes, falls on the ice, hypothermia and frostbite. It’s also much cozier.

Snow hides begrimed houses, laundry, and slag in coal mining…

Snow hides begrimed houses, laundry, and slag in coal mining town in British Columbia, 1966.Photograph by James L. Stanfield, National Geographic

Skiers relax by a fire at a Stowe dormitory in Vermont, August…

Skiers relax by a fire at a Stowe dormitory in Vermont, August 1967.
Photograph by B. Anthony Stewart, National Geographic