Health Effects From Cold Weather

Olivia Longmore, Staff Reporter

Winter in Nebraska always means cold weather. While people living in Florida are enjoying fifty degrees, we are here suffering though below freezing temperatures. According to the U.S. Climate Data, the average temperature in Nebraska is 24.3 degrees fahrenheit. Stepping outside we brace ourselves for the cold air to pierce our lungs. This exposure to the cold weather can put our bodies through trials, but it can also have some healthy benefits.

Some negative effects to cold weather can be extreme cases that can last through the winter and reappear each winter for the rest of your life. For example, according to frostbite can occur suddenly by simply wiping off snow from the windshield of a car and using that hand to drive in the cold. You will notice more stiffness in the area of frostbite and circulation may cause black or blue coloring in the skin. However, these cases are more rare and there are many more effects that people experience everyday.

There are many more common effects that the majority of people living in cold weather face. In “It’s Cold Outside! Do your joints hurt?” by the UChicagoMedicine board, it states that stiffness and pain in joints or muscles occur because of the “drop in barometric pressure which causes tendons, muscles, and the surrounding tissues to expand.” and can cause discomfort in various areas of the body. Healthline continues this subject in their article “How Extremely Cold Weather Can Affect Your Health”, Dry skin, mucous membranes, and off-balance are more common symptoms of cold weather. This leads to a person becoming more irritable and distressed, which leads to our last example of health effects to the cold: changes in mood. This happens because as people who suffer with a type of chronic pain or live with depression become more irritable, “the perception of pain can be magnified.”

There are many ways to fight these symptoms or combat it with a healthy lifestyle. While many refuse to go outside to deal with the frigid temperature, others enjoy it and continue to train in this weather to further their healthy lifestyle. It is essential that these people be well-equipped to deal with this type of environment in which to train. While there is no specific temperature that makes it unsafe to train, it does increase the health risks. It is much more important to remember to get the appropriate attire to wear for the type of training that you will need. Staying warm is vital to keep the flow of blood and oxygen levels at the right percentages. According to Matt Fitzgerald in his article “3 Tips for Training in the Cold”, states that the key is to “dress so that you are uncomfortably cool but not miserably cold when you first step out the door and then become comfortable after about 10 minutes of activity.” It is also essential to stay hydrated and maintain a regular sleep schedule.

There are a number of people, however, that use this cold environment as resting time where they do not exercise more regularly. Luckily, the cold weather does have benefits along with the negative symptoms it may cause. “4 Health Benefits of Cold Weather” by Karianne Lancee, the cold can enhance the body’s immune system by “enhancing the activity of immune cells that help fight infection and disease.” It can also increase resilience by teaching the body to adapt to this environment or “stressors”  which can increase strength and tolerance to fight other stressors such as “emotional or physical stress.” Another health benefit improved blood circulation as a result of increased heart rate, which is the body’s way of keeping it warm.

This may all be well and good, but for the most part the symptoms we notice most about the cold tends to be the negative ones that make us miserable. There are common ways to stay warm that most people know such as dressing appropriately, drinking warm liquids, or buying hand warmers. However, there are other tips that may be worth a try when fighting the freezing temperatures. “What’s the best way to stay warm outside this winter?” states that one way is to rub the insides of your wrists together. In doing this, it heats and sends the blood within the nerves at the top of the skin into the rest of the body which can slowly move throughout the body. Another tip is to eat bigger amounts of food than you would in the Summer months, and stay away from spicy foods. The simple explanation is that the body works harder in the winter to keep warm, which results in the need for more energy, and spicy food can make the body perspire thus cooling the body down as a result. The last tip is to tuck in the sleeves and pant legs inward to reduce the incoming amount of cool air and going airflow of warm that lays closer to the skin.

Living in Nebraska, we are more used to the freezing temperatures than the people closer to the equator. Yet, while they are tanning at the beach, we are gaining health benefits that may help us live a longer and better life. Although, it would be nice to sit in the warm sun in these cold winter months.