Cook County is under a winter storm watch beginning at 8 p.m. tonight until 6 p.m. Thursday. Between six to 16 inches of snow is possible. The highest snowfall rates will be Tuesday night into Wednesday afternoon. Cook County Health (CCH) and the Department of Emergency Management and Regional Security (EMRS) offer the following tips to keep residents safe during prolonged winter weather.

CCH sees an increase in injuries and illnesses during big winter storms including cold exposure injuries and heart attacks when people over-exert themselves while shoveling snow. If you have to be outside, CCH offers the following tips to help residents stay safe.

  • Wear multiple layers including a hat and gloves or mittens. Layers are the best way to keep your body warm because the air in between the layers acts as extra insulation.
  • Continued cold exposure can lead to frostnip or frostbite. Carefully rewarm exposed areas with a warm, wet wash cloth. See a doctor if cold, hard, blotchy skin appears or if the area becomes painful, swollen or a fever occurs.
    • Frostnip is a mild form of frostbite and may feel like tingling or pain as the skin warms.
    • Frostbite can set in within 30 minutes. Symptoms can start as a pins and needles or a tingly feeling. The skin may also become a different color including red, white, blue, purple or grayish depending on the severity.
  • Older individuals or those who are relatively inactive should take caution while shoveling snow. Sudden exertion combined with cold weather can increase the heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in a deadly combination. If you are active and healthy, help your neighbors clear snow.
  • Know the signs of hypothermia. Seek emergency help if someone is experiencing intense shivering, slurred speech and drowsiness as well as loss of coordination. Hypothermia is when the body loses heat faster than it can be produced.
  • Seek medical care when you need it. Don’t put your life at risk by not getting the care you need. This can be a deadly decision.

EMRS urges residents to keep the following tips in mind during the cold winter months.

  • Never use your oven for heat.
  • Never bring charcoal or gas grills indoors (they are a carbon monoxide hazard).
  • Make sure all portable heaters are unplugged when not in use.
  • Use electric space heaters with extreme caution – avoid placing them near curtains or other flammable materials and turn them off before going to bed.
  • Keep heat at adequate levels or leave faucets open with a slight drip to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep moving. Your body generates its own heat when you engage in physical activities.

Municipalities and townships across Cook County operate warming centers for residents. Residents who do not have adequate heating in their homes are encouraged to visit a warming center to ensure they remain safe.

View the complete list of warming centers throughout Cook County.

To receive the latest messages through AlertCook, the County’s text alert system, text “alertcook” to 888-777.