B-r-r-raving the C.O.L.D.
If you are a midwesterner, you’re accustomed to braving the December chill. While staying cozy inside by the fire sounds great, in all reality people need to go outside, whether it’s to run to the store or head to work. So when going out this winter, our medical experts advise the following important precautions to keep safe.
“One of the most important things people can do in weather like this is to limit the amount of time they’re exposed to it,” says Dr. Patricia Lee, chair of emergency medicine at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “Try not to be outside any longer than 20 minutes. Any longer, and you risk frostbite.”
When dressing for the cold weather, Dr. Lee recommends conserving your natural body heat by following the acronym COLD:
C—Cover yourself completely. Limit the amount of skin exposed to the elements. Make certain to cover your head, face, neck and hands, where most of your body heat can escape.
O—Overexertion can be dangerous. When you do too much, your body heats up, naturally sweating to cool itself down. This added wetness can be extremely dangerous in low wind chills, adding to the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.
L—Layer your clothing. Thermal underwear is always a good choice, as are sweaters and double layers of heavy socks. For outer layers, make certain you wear a heavy material, such as wool or down.
D—Dryness is extremely important. If your head or feet get wet, your body will lose its natural heat much faster. Layers help to protect against wetness, as you can remove a top layer if it gets wet to avoid soaking through to the clothing nearest your body.
“If you notice any areas of your skin that have changed color—white, gray or yellow—you may have frostbite,” Dr. Lee says. “The majority of frostbite can be successfully treated when caught in time, so get to your doctor immediately.”
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.