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How to keep your body and car running during these bitter cold days

MIDLOTHIAN,  Va. -- January's bitter cold temperatures can wreak havoc on both your body and your vehicle.

"This is definitely frostbite and hypothermia weather that we need to be careful about," Dr. Elizabeth Jenkins, at Patient First in Midlothian, said.

Jenkins described the new year as a "typical" start to the flu and cold season, but said cold temperatures don't directly cause the virus.

"We've been seeing a few cases and putting some on an anti-viral medication. I don't think we are at the peak of the flu yet, though," she said. "The flu is spread by people being inside and spreading viruses to each other."

Doctors recommended frequent hand washing and using general good health practices such as healthy eating and exercise to prevent getting sick.

However, frostbite can be prevented, according to Patient First.

Frostbitten skin may appear waxy or hard, has a gray tone, and can also itch or burn.

To help prevent frostbite:

  • Wear warm clothing and dress in layers.
  • Use hats, gloves, scarves, thick socks, and well-insulated boots to cover body parts that are prone to frostbite (nose and ears).
  • Remember that even brief exposure to extreme cold can cause frostbite.
  • If you notice the signs of frostbite, go into a warm area as soon as possible.

If you have frostbite, be treated by a medical professional as soon as possible. Take these precautions until you can see a physician:

  • Remove any wet clothing.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten toes or feet.
  • Gently warm the frostbitten area in warm water (not hot) until the skin appears red and warm.
  • Do not use direct heat to warm the skin, rub or massage the skin, or break blisters.

AAA Mid-Atlantic warned bitter cold temperatures increase the number of calls for service.

"When it's cold like this car batteries die very very fast," said AAA spokesperson Martha Meade. "Calls for AAA probably double. Test your battery frequently, make sure there's no corrosion and that you have a good connection."

Meade also recommended having an emergency supply kit inside your car in case you get stranded or your battery dies.

The winter kits should include several days’ of non-perishable items such as bread, crackers, cereal, canned foods, and dried fruits. Make sure if you have children that there is baby food and formula. The recommended amount of clean, bottled water is five gallons per person.

An emergency supplies list should include an alternate way to stay warm during a power failure, such as kerosene for a kerosene heater or extra blankets, sleeping bags, and warm winter coats.

Make sure you have matches, a first aid kit and instruction manual, candles, flashlight or battery-powered lantern, battery-powered radio, battery-powered clock or watch, extra batteries,  non-electric can opener, snow shovel, rock salt, any special needs items (diapers, hearing aid batteries, medications, etc.)

If your area is prone to long periods of cold temperatures, or if your home is isolated, stock additional amounts of food, water, and medicine.

Now is the time to take out some cash to use in the event of an emergency.