Depending upon how you are dressed, walking outside in the winter can be enjoyable or very uncomfortable. Not only can being improperly dressed in the winter be uncomfortable, you could be exposing yourself to winter dangers, like frostbite and hypothermia. Here are some tips to help you dress appropriately for the winter season and to notice the potential for and remedy the effects of winter dangers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults and children should wear a hat, a scarf or knit mask to cover your face and mouth, sleeves that are snug at the wrist, mittens, a water-resistant coat and boots, and several layers of loose-fitting clothing. Make sure that your outer layer clothing is tightly woven, so you can reduce body-heat loss. Additionally, wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton, according to the CDC. However, excess perspiration will increase heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing whenever you feel too warm, advises the CDC. Shivering is a sign that your body is losing heat, so persistent shivering means that you should return indoors. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants and children should wear several thin layers and boots, gloves or mittens, and a hat. Older babies and young children should be dressed in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions, advises the AAP.
The wind chill index is the temperature your body feels when the air temperature is combined with the wind speed, according to the CDC. It is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the effects of wind and cold. When there are high winds, serious weather-related health problems are more likely, even when the temperatures are cool, reports the CDC.
The CDC reports that frostbite is an injury that is caused by freezing; it most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas, according to the CDC. Although the risk of frostbite is less than five percent when the air temperature is above 5 °F, the risk increases as the wind chill falls, advises the Mayo Clinic. At wind chill levels below minus 18 °F, frostbite can occur on exposed skin in thirty minutes or less, suggests the Mayo Clinic. If the temperature is below 0 °F or the wind chill is extreme, consider remaining indoors, advises the Mayo Clinic. If frostbite occurs, place the frostbitten parts of your body in warm, not hot water (about the temperature of most hot tubs is recommended, approximately 104°), advises the AAP. Warm washcloths may be applied to a frostbitten nose, ears, or lips, suggests the AAP. After a few minutes, dry and cover yourself with clothing or blankets and drink a warm drink; however, you should not rub the frozen area. If the numbness continues for more than a few minutes, call your doctor, recommends the AAP.
Hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, is the prolonged exposure to cold temperatures that causes loss of body heat and stored energy, reports the CDC. Body temperature that is too low affects your brain, making it difficult to think clearly or move well. Hypothermia occurs most often at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40 °F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water, according to the CDC.
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