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Winter safety tips to stay safe, healthy

A heavy-equipment operator with the Fort McCoy snow removal, drives a plow truck to move snow. Winter can be a hazardous time of year. Frigid temperatures and slick roads can be dangerous. (U.S. Army photo by Scott T. Sturkol) A heavy-equipment operator with Fort McCoy snow removal, drives a plow truck to move snow. Winter can be a hazardous time of year. Frigid temperatures and slick roads can be dangerous. (U.S. Army photo by Scott T. Sturkol)

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Winter Safety

Winter can be a hazardous time of year. Frigid temperatures and slick roads can be dangerous. Being prepared and knowing your TRICARE health care options will help you and your family remain safe this winter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide a number of winter safety tips to help you prepare for freezing temperatures, and prevent injuries and illness. When it comes to preparing your home, car, and family during the winter months, follow these tips.

Prepare with TRICARE

It’s a good idea to have a health emergency kit with all your TRICARE essentials. If you have chronic conditions, your kit should include a full list of your prescription and over-the-counter medications with dosing instructions. Don’t forget to include contact information for TRICARE, your primary care provider, and an extra supply of drugs and supplies.

If you need medical care after a weather-related illness or injury, TRICARE covers urgent and emergency care. But be sure to follow the rules for your plan for getting care. If you’re not sure of the type of care you need, the Military Health System Nurse Advice Line is available 24/7 to provide health advice.

Prepare your home

Winterize your home to help protect yourself and your family from any potential damage the cold temperatures and snow may bring. Follow these tips to keep your home safe and warm:

  • Check your heating systems.
  • Clean out chimneys and fireplaces.
  • Closely monitor any burning fires or candles.
  • Check your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
  • Remove ice and snow from walkways to prevent slips and falls.
  • Keep an emergency kit in your home that includes flashlights, extra batteries, a first-aid kit, extra medicine, and baby items.
  • If you lose power, your kit should also include food and water for three days for each family member, warm clothing if you have to evacuate, and toys and games for children.

Prepare your car

Is your car ready for winter travel? It’s not too late to winterize your car. Check out these car care tips to prepare you for winter driving:

  • Check your tires and replace with all-weather or snow tires, if necessary.
  • Keep your gas tank full to prevent ice from getting in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Use a wintertime fluid in your windshield washer.
  • Make an emergency kit to keep in your car. Include water, snacks, first-aid kit, blankets, flashlight, extra batteries, portable cell phone charger, and emergency flares.

Prepare your family for outdoor winter activities

Remaining indoors during the winter is appealing. But you and your family may want to venture outdoors to enjoy winter activities. When you do, take these steps to prevent serious injuries and illnesses, like hypothermia and frostbite:

  • Wear layers of light and warm clothing, a wind-resistant coat, waterproof shoes, and a hat, gloves, and scarf.
  • Work slowly when engaged in outdoor tasks, such as shoveling your driveway or removing snow from your car.
  • Take a friend and carry a charged cell phone when participating in outdoor activities.

For more winter weather safety tips, visit the CDC website and TRICARE winter safety kit. Also, check out the disaster preparation information on the TRICARE website, where you can sign up for disaster alerts.

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The relentless winter poses risk for head injuries

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2018 #ColdReadiness Twitter chat recap: Preventing cold weather injuries for service members and their families

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To help protect U.S. armed forces, the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch (AFHSB) hosted a live #ColdReadiness Twitter chat on Wednesday, January 24th, 12-1:30 pm EST to discuss what service members and their families need to know about winter safety and preventing cold weather injuries as the temperatures drop. This fact sheet documents highlights from the Twitter chat.

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No chill zone: Give winter weather injuries the cold shoulder

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Update: Cold Weather Injuries, Active and reserve components, U.S. Armed Forces, July 2012 – June 2017

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1/18/2018
The total number of cold weather injuries among active component service members in 2016 – 2017 cold season was the lowest since 1999. 2016 – 2017 versus the previous four cold seasons  •	A total of 387 members of the active (n=328) and reserve (n=59) components had at least one medical encounter with a primary diagnosis of cold weather injury. •	Rates tended to be higher among service members who were in the youngest age groups, female, non-Hispanic black, or in the Army. •	Cold weather injuries associated with overseas deployments have fallen precipitously in the past three cold seasons due to changes in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. There were just 10 cases in the 2016 – 2017 season.  •	Frostbite was the most common type of cold weather injury. Bar chart displays numbers of service members who had a cold injury (one per person per year), by service and cold season, active and reserve components, U.S. Armed Forces, July 2012 – June 2017. Access the full report in the October 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No. 10). Go to: www.Health.mil/MSMR  #ColdReadiness

This infographic provides an update for cold weather injuries among active and reserve components, U.S. Armed Forces, July 2012 – June 2017.

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Five cold seasons: July 2012-June 2017, Active reserve component service members who were diagnosed with a cold weather injury

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1/18/2018
Did you know during the 5-year surveillance period, the 2,717 service members who were affected by any cold weather injury included 2,307 from the active component and 410 from the reserve component. Overall, Army members comprised the majority (61.6%) of all cold injuries affecting active and reserve component service members. Of all affected reserve component members, 71.7% (n=294) were members of the Army. Cold weather injuries During Basic Training Of all active component service members who were diagnosed with a cold weather injury (n= 2,307), 230 (10.0% of the total) were affected during basic training. Additionally, during the surveillance period, 60 service members who were diagnosed with cold weather injuries during basic training (2.6% of the total) were hospitalized, and most (93.3%) of the hospitalized cases were members of either the Army (n=32) or Marine Corps (n=24). Cold weather injuries during basic training pie chart: The Army (n=122) and Marine Corps (n=99) comprised 96.1% of all basic trainees who were diagnosed with a cold weather injury. Access the full report in the October 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No. 10). Go to: www.Health.mil/MSMR  #ColdReadiness Image of service member tracking in the snow is the infographic background graphic.

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Cold weather injuries by military location, U.S. Armed Forces, July 2012 – June 2017

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1/18/2018
From July 2016 through June 2017, a total of 24 military locations had at least 30 incident cold weather injuries (one per person, per year) among active and reserve component service members.  The locations with the highest 5-year counts of incident injuries were: •	Fort Wainwright, AK (175) •	Bavaria (Grafenwoehr/Vilseck), Germany (110) •	Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island/ Beaufort, SC (102) •	Fort Benning, GA (99) •	Fort Carson, CO (88) •	Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA (86) •	Fort Bragg, NC (78) Map displays the information above. 2016 – 2017 cold season During the 2016 – 2017 cold season, the numbers of incident cases of cold weather injuries were higher than the counts for the previous 2015-2016 cold season at seven of the 24 locations. The most noteworthy increase was found at the Army’s Fort Wainwright, where there were 48 total cases diagnosed in 2016 – 2017 , compared to just 16 during the 2015 – 2016 cold season. Bar chart shows annual number of cold weather injuries (cold season 2016 – 2017) and median number of cold weather injuries (cold seasons 2012 – 2016) at military locations with at least 30 cold weather injuries during the surveillance period, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, July 2012 – June 2017. Access the full report in the October 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No. 10). Go to: www.Health.mil/MSMR Image in background includes  service members out in the snow.

This infographic documents cold weather injuries by military location among U.S. Armed Forces for the July 2012 – June 2017 cold seasons.

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Incidence rates of cold weather injuries: Non-Hispanic black service members, five cold weather seasons, July 2012 – June 2017

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1/18/2018
Did you know for all of the services, overall rates of cold weather injuries were higher among non-Hispanic black service members than among those of other race/ethnicity groups? •	Rates of cold weather injuries among non-Hispanic black service members were two-times as high as those among non-Hispanic white or other race/ethnicity groups.  •	The rates of frostbite among non-Hispanic black service members were three-times those of the other race/ethnicity groups. Access the full report in the October 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No. 10). Go to www.Health.mil/MSMR  #ColdReadiness Image of non-Hispanic black service member in the snow displays.

This infographic documents incidence rates of cold weather injuries among non-Hispanic black service members during the July 2012 – June 2017 cold weather seasons.

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2016 – 2017 Cold Season, Cold Weather Injuries, Active and Reserve Components, U.S. Armed Forces

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1/18/2018
or the 2016 – 2017 cold season, the number of active component service members with cold weather injuries was the lowest of the last 18 cold seasons since the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report (MSMR) began reporting such data in the 1999-2000 cold season. Findings •	The overall incidence rate for cold weather injuries for all active component service members in 2016 – 2017 was 15% lower than the rate for the 2015 – 2016 cold season. •	The 2016 – 2017 rate was the lowest of the entire five year surveillance period. •	In the 2016 – 2017 cold season, the Army’s incidence rate of 41.0 per 100,000 person-years for active component soldiers was 18% lower than the Army’s lowest previous rate in 2012 – 2013. •	In the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, the active component rate for 2016 – 2017 was only slightly higher than their lowest rates during the 2012—2017 surveillance period. Pie chart 1 (left side of infographic): Cold Weather Injuries, By Service, Active Component, 2016 – 2017 data •	Army 57.6% (n=189) •	Marine Corps 21.0% (n=69) •	Air Force - 13.1% (n=43) •	Navy – 8.2% (n=27) •	The sharp decline in the Army rate during the 2016 – 2017 cold season drove the overall decline for all services combined. Pie chart 2 (right side of infographic): Percentage distribution by service of cold weather injuries among reserve component service members during cold season 2016 – 2017  •	Army 72.9% (n=43) •	Marine Corps 13.5% (n=8) •	Air Force 13.5% (n=8) •	Navy (n= 0) •	For the 2016 – 2017 cold season, the overall rate of cold weather injuries for the reserve component and the rates for each of the services except the Air Force were lower than in any of the previous four seasons. Access the full report in the October 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No. 10). Go to: www.Health.mil/MSMR

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Percentages of each Service’s cold weather injuries, 2016 – 2017 cold season

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Did you know when all cold weather injuries were considered, not just the numbers of individuals affected, frostbite was the most common type of cold weather injury, comprising 53% (n=177) of all cold weather injuries among active component service members in 2016 – 2017? •	In the Air Force and Army respectively, 60.9% and 58.9% of all cold weather injuries were frostbite, whereas the proportions in the Marine Corps (42.9%) and Navy (25.0%) were much lower. •	For the Navy, the 2016-2017 number and rate of frostbite injuries in active component service members were the lowest of the past 5 years. •	The number of immersion injury cases in 2016 – 2017 in the Marine Corps was the lowest of the 5-year surveillance period. Bar graph: Percentages of each Service’s cold weather injuries that were frostbite, 2016 – 2017 cold season •	Air Force (60.9%) •	Army (58.9%) •	Marine Corps (42.9%) •	Navy (25.0%) For all active component service members during the 2016 – 2017, the proportions of non-frostbite cold weather injuries were as follows: •	19.5% hypothermia •	17.7% immersion injuries •	9.9% Other & unspecified cold weather injuries Access the full report in the October 2017 MSMR (Vol. 24, No. 10). Go to: www.Health.mil/MSMR  #ColdReadiness

This infographic documents the percentages of each service’s cold weather injuries, U.S. Armed Forces for the 2016 – 2017 cold season.

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Five cold seasons: July 2012 – June 2017, Cold injuries during deployments

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During the 5-year surveillance period, 105 cold injuries were diagnosed and treated in service members deployed outside of the U.S. Of these 105 cold injuries, 68% occurred in the first two cold seasons. Total no. of cold injuries, by season: •	35 cold injuries during cold season 2012 – 2013 •	36 during 2013 – 2014 •	13 during 2014 – 2015 •	11 during 2015 – 2016 •	10 during 2016 – 2017 The decrease in the number of cases is most likely a byproduct of: •	The dramatic decline in the number of service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan •	Changes in the nature of military operations there Access the full report in MSMR Vol. 24 No. 10 October 2017 at Health.mil/MSMR Pie Chart showing cold injuries during deployments: •	39 Immersion •	33 Frostbite •	17 unspecified  •	16 Hypothermia Background image shows service member walking in the snow.

This infographic documents cold injuries during deployments outside of the United States for the July 2012 – June 2017 cold seasons (five-year surveillance period).

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Cold injuries among active duty U.S. service members drop to lowest level since winter 2011–2012

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1/23/2017
U.S. service members often perform duties in cold weather climates where they may be exposed to frigid conditions and possible injury.

Cold injuries among active duty U.S. service members drop to the lowest level since winter 2011-2012, according to a study published in Defense Health Agency’s Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch (AFHSB) peer-reviewed journal, the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report.

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Facts on Cold Injuries

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1/9/2017
During a July 2011-2016 five-year surveillance period, overall incidence rates of cold injuries among U.S. service members declined for the two most recent winters after having peaked in winter 2013-2014. That year much of the eastern U.S. experienced colder-than-average weather attributed to a weakening of the polar vortex. More facts to know: •	For the Navy and Air Force, the rates of all cold injuries in 2015-2016 were the lowest of any year of the surveillance period. •	The 2015-2016 rates for the Army and Marine Corps were lower than the rates for the previous two years but still higher than the rates for the first two years of the surveillance period.  At war, the numbers of cold injuries associated with service in Iraq and Afghanistan have fallen precipitously in the past four cold seasons. The 11 cases in the most recent year are the fewest in the surveillance period.  For more information on cold injuries among U.S. Armed Forces, read the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report at www.Health.mil/AFHSB

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Human Physiologic Responses to Cold Exposure

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1/9/2017
Human Physiologic responses to cold exposure preserve core body temperature, but those responses may not be sufficient to prevent hypothermia if heat loss is prolonged. This infographic offers helpful information on preserving core body temperature to counter the threat from cold environments. Physiologic responses include: •	Constriction of the peripheral (superficial) vascular system – may result in non-freezing injuries or hasten the onset of actual freezing of tissues (frostbite) •	Minimizing loss of body heat •	Protecting superficial tissues Protection includes:	 •	Nutrition •	Shelter •	Physical Activity •	Protective Clothing Learn more about preserving core body temperature by reading the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report at www.Health.mil/AFHSB

Human Physiologic responses to cold exposure preserve core body temperature, but those responses may not be sufficient to prevent hypothermia if heat loss is prolonged. This infographic offers helpful information on preserving core body temperature to counter the threat from cold environments.

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Winter Safety | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch
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