Combat the cold temperatures of winter

Common sense can keep you warm during the frigid months

Just because winter is running late doesn’t mean it’s not going to get here. Before long, you will notice white fluffy powder on your front porch and get the credit card out of your wallet to scrape the front shield. In a perfect world, dreadful winter weather shouldn’t interfere with your life and well-being.

But for many of us the infinite cold season can be a real pain in the neck. Don’t despair simply because cold winter weather is just around the corner. There are lots of ways to enjoy the outdoors in spite of the chilling temperatures.

First of all, give your body some credit for maintaining normal body temperature. Normal body temperature ranges from 97 degrees Fahrenheit to 100 degrees F with an average of 98.6 degrees F. The basis of the body temperature is the heat produced by the working cells of body. The greatest furnaces are your muscles and liver, each generating about 25 percent of total body heat. The resting brain, the student’s utmost asset, produces about 15 percent of the heat. Interestingly, the studying brain does not produce much more heat.

The body also constantly loses heat. Eighty percent of heat is lost through the skin and the rest is lost through sweat and breath and excreted with waste products. Several mechanisms help regulate heat loss. When the mercury drops, the blood vessels of the skin constrict, keeping blood and heat in the deeper tissues. Sweat production is reduced and shivering is triggered. Shivering is caused by “cold” sensors and involves muscle contraction that produces heat. During maximal shivering, the body can increase the amount of heat it produces to as high as five times normal.

Most heat is lost through the skin, and it’s the only kind of heat loss that can be regulated. There is no control over heat lost through other routes.

Common sense tells you to insulate the body with warm clothing. Two important concepts here are layering and staying dry. Air is a poor conductor of heat and when layers of air are trapped in clothing and between the skin and clothing they act as effective insulators against excessive heat loss. That is why it is preferable to wear several layers of lightweight clothes than one heavy garment.

When choosing winter clothing, look for ventilation layers next to the skin to wick moisture away; two insulation layers to transfer perspiration to the outer shell and trap warm air; and an outer protective shell made of breathable material allowing moisture to escape while shielding from wind and snow. Without the proper insulation around your body, you’re putting yourself at risk for hypothermia.

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Here are some tips to keep your inner heat:

  • Several layers of clothing will allow sweat to pass through, while at the same time keeping warmer dry air trapped close to the skin
  • If you sweat a lot, avoid wearing the protective shell unless it is designed with substantial venting, such as zippers in the armpit area
  • To stay dry, avoid heavy cotton and tightly woven materials that lock in water vapor
  • Up to 50 percent of the heat lost when outdoors in the cold is from the head, so wear a hat to trap in your body heat
  • Choose wool or fleece gloves and two layers of socks – moist or dry, wool will keep you warm
  • Wear a scarf or mask over your mouth if necessary

 

Whether you belong on a sandy beach or in the snowy mountains, the onset of the holiday season will be delightful with some increased awareness. Enjoy spending your days in the fresh air in spite of the unique challenges presented by exposure to the environment. With a little advanced planning, and a healthy dose of self-discipline, there is no reason to be cold!

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