Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Gear up

Along with Christmas presents, you might want to add these things to your shopping list: Scrapers, shovels, a stash of water, canned food, flashlights and batteries, extra gloves, snow pants and … you get the idea. In the bitter cold, with last winter’s blizzards fresh in our minds, it’s prudent not to get complacent.

Three Virginians died last week from hypothermia in Hampton Roads, prompting the Virginia Department of Health to issue a warning about the cold weather. With temperatures as frigid as they are now, four groups of people are especially at risk for hypothermia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say:

  • elderly people without enough heat, food or clothing
  • babies sleeping in cold rooms
  • the homeless, hikers, hunters and others who stay outside for long stretches (Our area’s cold weather shelter provides a warm place to sleep on nights when it’s 32 degrees or colder. It’s at 750 Kings Hwy; call 540/479-4116, ext. 16, for details).
  • people who go outside after drinking or using drugs

For adults, signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, slurred speech, fumbling hands, drowsiness and memory loss, the CDC says. For babies, bright red, cold skin and low energy are symptoms. If a person’s temperature drops below 95 degrees, head to the ER.

For advice on how to prepare your home and car for winter weather, visit the CDC’s site: