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Basic Efforts Help Preserve Body Heat
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Sometimes Old Man Winter doesn't just knock at your door. When he barges right in, some extra efforts can help people stay warmer in cold houses.
Whether your home is without electricity following a winter storm or simply a cold house, several steps can make it more bearable during the winter.
Dr. Frances Graham, extension housing specialist at Mississippi State University, said clothing, nutrition and special insulation can help people stay warmer in cold houses.
"Dress in layers to help trap body heat closest to your body. By layering, you can remove outer garments if you start getting too warm and prevent perspiration which can cause chills," Graham said. "Some type of head covering, especially when sleeping, is an effective way to stay warmer since 50 to 75 percent of the body's heat is lost through the head."
Graham recommended sleeping under several lightweight blankets rather than single heavy ones for the same layering effect.
Eating warm nutritious foods will help a body stay warmer.
The housing specialist said closing off unnecessary rooms to hold heat in smaller areas is best. Stuff towels, newspapers, blankets and rugs around doors where cold air can leak in. Hang blankets over windows at night, but remove them during the day to let in sunshine.
"If they are already frozen, open faucets to prevent pipes from bursting. Wrap frozen pipes with rags and pour hot water over the rags -- making sure faucets are open," Graham said. "If all pipes are frozen, close the water inlet valve on the toilet and flush to prevent freezing damage in the toilet."
Graham said to use caution with space heaters, which are a major cause of fire deaths each year.
Following manufacturer's instructions and using common sense are keys to safety during the cold weather ahead when space heaters are in use.
"Space heaters are basically safe if you follow their written instructions. But, when people become careless with them, the danger of a fire becomes much greater," said Graham.
House fires often occur when people place a space heater too near combustible material. Locating the heater in the center of the room is not necessarily the answer because of the danger of knocking it over. Graham recommended placing the heaters no closer than 2 feet from the wall.
Of the two types of space heaters -- convective and radiant -- the latter requires the most attention. Radiant heaters heat a smaller, specific area compared to convective heaters, which circulate air in one or more rooms.
Graham said heaters that operate on kerosene, gas, propane or butane are most often responsible for causing house fires. Along with the warnings and instructions that come with the heater, the specialist stressed the importance of never adding fuel to a warm heater.