A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Winter car kit must-haves to keep you safe

Winter Roadside Safety Checklist

Prepare a good, comprehensive winter car kit to keep you safe when roads are bad.

Winter driving in Wisconsin and many other states could mean variable road conditions, so be ready with a well-stocked winter car kit.

Assembling a roadside safety kit can keep being stranded just an inconvenience rather than a life-threatening emergency, according to Marshfield Clinic Emergency Medicine Specialist Brian Hoerneman, M.D.

The goal of the roadside safety kit, he said, is to provide the chance for rapid rescue as well as prevent hypothermia and frostbite.

What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia can occur when the body loses heat more quickly than it’s generated. That results in an abnormally low body temperature. It’s particularly dangerous because people can have confusion and memory loss and not even know hypothermia is setting in.

Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, which may stop as hypothermia progresses; slow, shallow breathing; confusion and memory loss; drowsiness or exhaustion; slurred or mumbled speech; loss of coordination; fumbling hands or stumbling steps; and a slow, weak pulse. Symptoms for infants include being cold to the touch; bright red skin and unusually low energy.

Be aware of frostbite

Also, depending on temperature and wind chill, frostbite can occur in just minutes. Symptoms may include cold, numb and pale skin; feeling “pins and needles”; sensation of touch is decreased; burning skin or stinging sensation; skin discoloration – red, white, blue or grayish-yellow; blistering after rewarming; hard or waxy skin; and muscle and joint stiffness.

A well-stocked winter safety kit should include:

  • Cellphone
  • First aid kit with pocketknife
  • Necessary medications
  • Emergency flares and reflectors
  • Tow chain or rope
  • Road salt, sand or cat litter for traction
  • Foam tire sealant
  • Spare fuses
  • Jumper cables
  • Florescent flag
  • Windshield scraper and small broom
  • Blankets or sleeping bag
  • Shovel
  • Flashlight with extra batteries (reverse batteries in the flashlight to avoid accidental use)
  • Nonperishable food
  • Drinking water
  • Extra hats, socks and mittens
  • Matches and small candles
  • Roadside assistance (information if you belong to an auto club)

Your safety kit may seem large and take time to assemble but it could save your life, the lives of your passengers and even could be used to help other stranded travelers you may need to help while driving in inclement winter weather.

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