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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Snow, wind, ice, freezing temperatures—all things that will send this Southerner into a blind, snow-hating panic. During the winter months, this is a regular occurrence for me, as I scramble to learn exactly how you’re supposed to cope with a real winter and all of its unpleasantness.

Part of coping with winter is being prepared to ride out winter storms indoors when the roads aren’t safe to travel. For people who are touched by cancer, this can require some extra preparation to make sure you stay safe, relaxed and avoid illness. Below are a few things to remember on cold, snowy days.

Check your medications

Snow can be hard to predict. What’s supposed to be a “light dusting” can wind up being a three-day ordeal of being stuck indoors with no way to get to your pharmacy or physician’s office. Talk to your health care team to make sure you can have back-up medications prior to bad weather in case you run out during a winter storm.

Have a list of emergency contacts

Create a list of different contacts you can keep on hand in case any need should arise. In addition to having contact information for your health care team, it can also be helpful to have a few neighbors you can call to check on you, make sure your heat is working, your walkway is clear, you have clean water, etc.

Stay warm

This seems like a no-brainer, but for someone living with cancer, staying warm is especially crucial. Several common side-effects can make you more sensitive to the cold, which can increase your risk for hypothermia. To avoid hypothermia, try to keep your head covered with a hat or scarf (even indoors), make sure you have an alternative source of heat in case you lose power and stay hydrated.

Avoid the “winter blues”

A few weeks ago we wrote a blog on avoiding depression during winter months, which you can read here. When you’re snowed in it can be hard to avoid being sedentary, bored or even sad. Find something to pass the time, whether it’s a recreational activity, a good book or a chat with a close friend. Getting plenty light can also help boost your mood, even if it’s not direct sunlight.

If you’re ever snowed in and need additional support, don’t hesitate to call the Cancer Support Helpline at 1-888-793-9355 for information on local resources, to get connected to an in-person or online support group, or for emotional support.

Do you have your own tip for staying healthy and safe during bad weather? Weigh in on our Facebook page!