With freezing temperatures still predicted for parts of the United States, doctors are warning of the dangers of freezing cold.
Many of us feel the effects in our toes and front fingertips elsewhere in the body. It happens when your body is working to protect your vital organs from the cold, Dr. Suzanne Salamon, deputy chief of clinical programs at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, previously told CNN.
“Blood vessels in all different parts of the body will constrict,” she said. “They’re going to get smaller to try to retain heat.”
“What the body is really trying to do is protect the most important organs, which are the ones deep inside: the heart, the brain and the lungs,” she said. “The body tries to keep them warm by redirecting heat from the fingers and toes inwards, so the blood vessels in the fingers and toes get really small and there isn’t enough blood flowing in. cross them.”
It’s important for the body to do this – and to do it quickly – because winter weather has been linked to health risks of heart attacks, asthma symptoms, frostbite and hypothermia.
“You always hear about people going out, shoveling snow and having a heart attack,” Salamon said, explaining that’s partly because cold weather can narrow blood vessels, which can stress your heart.
“The most concerning health effect of exposure to cold is hypothermia, which can damage vital organs including the heart, nervous system and kidneys. In extreme cases, death can occur. is often the result of abnormal heart rhythms,” Dr. Jeahan Colletti, an emergency medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, previously told CNN.
What you can do: An important risk reduction measure is wardrobe and making sure you dress in layers that are not too tight. The air trapped between each layer helps keep you at war, according to Salamon.
“You really need to have looser sweaters, shawls if you’re sitting inside, to try and layer up. It helps to have a ski mask to protect your ears and nose,” she said. “If you get wet, like playing in the snow or shoveling snow, take off the wet clothes, because wet clothes really make it worse. They make things cooler. … Boots must be waterproof.
Preventative measures include not only dressing for the cold, but also avoiding too many cocktails in cold weather, said Colletti, of the Mayo Clinic. Alcohol “causes the body’s blood vessels to dilate, increasing heat loss,” she said.