Cold temperatures, wind, rain, and even sweat cool your skin and pull heat away from your body. You also lose heat when you breathe and sit or stand on the cold ground or other cold surfaces.
In cold weather, your body tries to keep a warm inner (core) temperature to protect your vital organs. It does this by slowing blood circulation in your face, arms, hands, legs, and feet. The skin and tissues in these areas becomes colder. This puts you at risk for frostbite.
If your core body temperature drops just a few degrees, hypothermia will set in. With even mild hypothermia, your brain and body DO NOT work as well. Severe hypothermia can lead to death.
Dress in Layers
They key to staying safe in the cold is to wear several layers of clothing. Wearing the right shoes and clothes helps:
- Keep your body heat trapped inside your clothes
- Protect you from cold air, wind, snow, or rain
- Protect you from contact with cold surfaces
You may need several layers of clothing in cold weather:
- An inner layer that wicks sweat away from the skin. It can be lightweight wool, polyester, or polypropylene (polypro). Never wear cotton in cold weather, including your underwear. Cotton absorbs moisture and keeps it next to your skin, making you cold.
- Middle layers that insulate and keep heat in. They can be polyester fleece, wool, microfiber insulation, or down. Depending on your activity, you may need a couple of insulating layers.
- An outer layer that repels wind, snow, and rain. Try to choose a fabric that is both breathable and rain and wind proof. If your outer layer is not also breathable, sweat can build up and make you cold.
You also need to protect your hands, feet, neck, and face. Depending on your activity, you may need the following:
- Warm hat
- Face mask
- Scarf or neck warmer
- Mittens or gloves (mittens tend to be warmer)
- Wool or polypro socks
- Warm, waterproof shoes or boots
The key with all of your layers is to take them off as you warm up and add them back as you cool down. If you wear too much while exercising, you will sweat a lot, which can make you colder.