How to Prepare for a Chicago Winter

Chicago in the winter. This image is free public domain.

by Israel Solis Jr.

Chicago winters can be much colder than other areas of the United States because of what’s called “The Lake Effect.” The Lake Effect refers to the phenomenon where cold air moves over a warm body of water, like a lake, and water vapor rises into the cold mass and freezes and is then sent back down wind. This, with the cold winds, makes Chicago winters some of the coldest in the countries. But the winter doesn’t have to be miserable! There are ways to survive it and even enjoy it. 

Try to get outside when the weather isn’t extremely cold, like on sunny days. If you do choose to stay inside, you might want to invest in a light box and a bottle of Vitamin D. Light boxes mimic natural sunlight and are often recommended to people with Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

Preparing your home for winter is essential. Make sure your heating system is ready before winter. If you find yourself unable to to have heating, prepare a kit with things to keep you safe through the cold. This might include several extra blankets, a flashlight, a first aid kit and extra medication, spare batteries and an extra charger for your phone, an emergency weather radio, three days worth of drinking water, and canned or non-perishable food that doesn’t need to be cooked. 

When you plan to take a trip outside, try to cut the amount of time you’ll be outdoors. Instead of doing all your errands in one day, try to do one or two throughout the week. If you have to be outside for a long time, take frequent breaks indoors. 

Wearing several layers instead of one jacket can be more beneficial. When the wind gets through to your under layer, it will essentially turn you into a walking cooler. Wearing multiple layers of loose clothing, including a wind jacket, will prevent the freezing wind from sneaking in.

Always keep your extremities covered. Because your hands, feet, and head are the farthest from your heart, they’re the first parts of your body to get cold. Layer these areas up, too. Wear a few pairs of boot socks and leg warmers as well as reinforced winter gloves. Keep your face and ears as warm as possible by wearing a scarf wrapped around your head and neck under a hat or hood. 

Lastly, try to stay healthy and give your body what it needs to get though the winter. Eat foods that give you a lot of energy to burn throughout the day. Eat hot soup and drink warm beverages to keep your body temperature up. If you have to do outdoor work, go slow, take breaks, and pay attention to your body.

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