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How to stay warm in frigid weather

Feb. 1, 2011

KALAMAZOO--With wind chills below zero and winds gusting to 40 mph in West Michigan this week, Sindecuse Health Center at Western Michigan University is offering advice on dressing appropriately, diet and other habits to remain warm.

Photo of deep snow.Ditch the fashion statement in favor of health and safety. Plan to have proper attire on before running out the door. Let's face it, shorts, pajamas and slippers just won't cut it in frigid weather.

Even if you work in an office, drive to work and spend only a few minutes outdoors, it makes good sense to dress appropriately in arctic weather conditions. Just the 10 minutes it may take to warm your car and chip the ice off the windshield is enough exposure to induce frostbite.

Dress appropriate to the conditions

Always cover your head, ears and hands when outdoors in sub-freezing weather. Wear a hat or knit cap that fully covers your head, insulated gloves and a scarf. An uncovered head accounts for up to 70 percent of body heat loss.

Layer clothing to prevent chilling and overheating. Three or four relatively light layers are better than one or two thick layers. Outer layers should be loose-fitting, windproof and water-resistant. Remove layers as your body warms to avoid overheating. Perspiration wets skin and clothing, and water conducts heat away from the body about 30 times faster than air at the same temperature.

Proper footwear is extremely important. Frostbite most frequently occurs in the extremities--fingers and toes. Wear socks and "sensible shoes," such as insulated walking shoes or boots, with rubber soles for best footing on icy walks. No high heels!

Adjust diet and other habits

Eat regular meals and frequent snacks, and drink regular amounts of water, juice and other fluids. Food fuels metabolism and creates body heat. Fluids are essential to digestion and to avoid dehydration in very dry winter air.

Avoid alcohol, because it lowers blood sugar levels, increases heat loss by dilating small blood vessels in the skin and interferes with judgment.

Avoid tobacco, because nicotine constricts small blood vessels in the hands and feet, predisposing them to frostbite.

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Media contact: Thom Myers, (269) 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400