How Cold Weather Affects Your Health

| By Tots N Teens Pediatrics

How Cold Weather Affects Your Health - Tots N Teens

Wear Several Layers To Stay Warm This Winter

November is here, which means the holiday season is officially underway. While this time of year is loved by many because of the holidays and the chance to spend time with family, not as many people are fans of the cold weather associated with the holiday season. Even though Texas remains warmer than other areas in the country, we still often experience cold weather.

Cold weather isn’t inherently bad. After all, most people prefer fashion worn in fall and winter. Christmas and Thanksgiving wouldn’t feel the same without a crispness in the air. However, cold weather can have quite an effect on your overall health. Many cases are minor, but some can threaten your life if not taken seriously.

Tots N Teens Pediatrics is here to help you better understand how cold weather affects your health. We would also like to remind you of the importance of getting a flu shot to protect you and your family this holiday season.

Frostbite

While frostbite is most common during times of extreme cold, it is still something to keep an eye out for. Frostbite occurs when your body recognizes the threat cold temperatures present. If your vital organs drop below their original body temperature, they won’t be able to function properly.

To combat this, your body slows the flow of blood to your extremities, such as your fingers, toes, ears, and nose. Your body tries to limit the amount of heat loss in core areas. Without this blood flow to keep your extremities warm, they have a higher likelihood of freezing.

Frostbite operates much like a burn, damaging different lays of tissues as it progresses. First, you may feel numbness or tingling. If you don’t warm them up, you may lose all feeling, and your extremities may turn white or gray. Blisters may also form. In extreme cases, the affected skin will turn black.

Hypothermia 

Healthcare experts all agree that your body temperature should always be around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (F). However, when the temperature begins to drop, that temperature is under threat. Whenever your body temperature drops below 95 degrees F, you will experience hypothermia.

As we mentioned previously, your body slows the blood flow to your extremities to keep vital organs warm and safe. However, your core temperature may still drop. Your body will begin to lose more heat than it can make.

Those with hypothermia may experience symptoms such as:

  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Clumsiness
  • Confusion
  • Tiredness
  • Poor decision making

Many factors will play a role in how quick hypothermia sets in, including body size, how many layers are worn, outside temperature, and more. If you suspect someone has hypothermia, contact emergency medical services. If not treated quickly, this condition can be fatal.

Increased Risk of Heart Problems

The cold does a lot of things. As we have mentioned, it makes it hard for your body to produce enough heat to keep up with how much is lost. Due to this, your heart has to work extra hard to keep your body warm.

When your body is forced to work harder, your heart rate and blood pressure both increase. This increase leads to a higher risk of heart failure and heart attack. Those with previous cardiovascular issues will experience significant trouble in the cold, as well.

To make matters worse, the cold acts as a vasoconstrictor, which means that your blood vessels constrict or narrow. For those with underlying heart conditions, your risk of heart attack is greatly increased. Avoid overexerting yourself when out in the cold.

Increase in Headaches 

When the weather cools down, the barometric pressure changes. Many healthcare experts have noted that fluctuations in barometric pressure have been known to trigger headaches and migraines. Some areas see sudden drops in pressure, which can cause major headaches.

The International Classifications of Headache Disorders also note that breathing in cold air can have a similar effect on your head as a brain freeze does after eating ice cream too quickly.

Lung Issues

As we just mentioned, breathing in cold air can lead to headaches. However, it can also be detrimental to those with lung issues and asthma. The air in cold weather is often very dry, which triggers lung irritation. If you have asthma, bronchitis, or any other underlying lung conditions, you may experience:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness

Cold air causes your airways to restrict, increasing the difficulty to breathe. Breathing in cold air also increases your risk of catching bronchitis. Try to avoid breathing cold air directly and deeply.

Dry Skin and Mucous Membranes 

Cold air is very dry. For most people, cold weather absorbs any moisture in their skin and mucous membranes. Your body is aware of the fact that dry air isn’t pleasant on your lungs, so it prompts your nose to add moisture to the air you breathe. You may recognize that when it’s cold, your nose becomes runny. This is because your body produces a lot of fluid to make up for the lack of moisture in the air.

Your eyes are also at risk, which is a problem as they need to remain moist at all times. The dry, cold air prompts your eyes to produce more tears to ensure they stay moist.

Just like your eyes and nose, the moisture in your skin is also sucked out. This often leads to cracked skin and chapped lips. Use lip balm and lotion to keep your skin moisturized.

More Calories Burned 

For those trying to lose weight, cold weather may help. As you get colder, you may notice that you shiver more. Shivering is your body’s way of staying warm. It is just many small muscle contractions that all generate heat. When you stop shivering, that is often a sign of trouble.

Your body goes into overdrive, trying to keep you warm. Shivering, while minor, increases the number of calories burned. Your body needs to burn more calories to stay warm. If you want to lose weight, simply watch your diet and dress in many layers to retain heat.

Staying Warm in Cold Weather

While cold weather isn’t always a bad thing, some cases often end in severe outcomes. That’s why it is important to keep you and your family warm this winter. You can do this by:

  • Wearing multiple layers
  • Wearing gloves or mittens to keep your fingers warm
  • Covering your face with a scarf and head with a beanie
  • Wearing waterproof boots and thick socks
  • Eating and drinking warm foods and beverages

Winter is nearly here. Cold weather can have drastic effects on your overall health. While many are minor, some can be deadly. It is important to be aware of how this weather affects your body and how to protect it. To learn more, contact Tots N Teens Pediatrics.