Riyadh: Dr. Abeer Mubarak*
People differ in how they “feel” the coldness of winter, as for some it can cause discomfort and suffering, and possibly health problems, while for others this atmosphere brings more comfort. activity and pleasure in everyday life.
A person, regardless of his environment, lives more comfortably when the ambient temperature is between 20°C and 25°C. However, medical sources indicate that the extent to which a normal human body (unaffected by any chronic disease) accepts cold is primarily due to the effectiveness of its “environmental conditioning” ability. It is noted that people who live in a cold environment have a greater ability to “accept” low temperatures in winter, compared to those who live most of the year in warm or temperate climates.
And these medical sources add that the amount of “sensation” of the body with the ambient temperature varies depending on a number of factors inside the body and in the environment around it. Among environmental factors, mentioning weather news with a specific number (like an air temperature amount) does not necessarily mean that all people will feel a certain amount of coldness in their body. Nor does it mean that residents of a particular city will experience the same cold weather in another distant city, which has the same air temperature.
These medical sources show that there are three environmental factors that have a direct impact on the way the body “feels” the temperature of the atmosphere in which it is located, namely: the temperature of the air, the amount of air humidity and wind speed intensity. Therefore, some weather reports mention the number “heat index”, which combines the amount of temperature and the percentage of humidity in the air, in order to give an indication of the amount of temperature felt by the body.
For example, when the temperature is 10 degrees Celsius in a place where the air humidity is higher, the “heat index” is higher (warmer) than in another place where the temperature is 10 degrees Celsius with lower air humidity. There are several physiological explanations for the different cold sensations in the two places. The most important is that the high humidity in the atmosphere reduces the sweat evaporation activity of the body, and therefore the body does not cool quickly. This is compared to how easily sweat evaporates in dry weather, which causes more coldness in the body.
With increasing wind speed, the feeling of coldness increases, the so-called “wind chill temperature”. Where the intensity of the (cold) wind causes an increase in the rates of movement of warm air enveloping the body, and therefore the feeling of cold increases. vice versa.
Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that the higher the cold wind speed, the greater the body’s exposure to lower temperatures. Thus, even with an equal number of meteorological temperature drops, the amount of cold felt by a person in dry desert areas differs from the amount of cold felt by a person residing in humid geographic areas.
Medical sources also mention that there is a difference between a “low body temperature” and an “increased feeling of coldness”. And she explains that a normal person may feel uncomfortable cold in cold winter weather, but their body temperature is within the normal range. On the other hand, a sharp drop in body temperature can occur when he is in a cold atmosphere, and yet the person does not feel this extreme cold, and therefore he does not notice the need to take the necessary measures to prevent the deterioration of his body. condition as a result of this decrease in its internal temperature. This condition has multiple causes. There is a third case, in which the ambient temperature is very moderate and the body temperature is very normal, but the person suffers from a feeling of extreme cold, and he continues to seek warmth at this time. It is also a condition that has multiple causes.
What is important in the winter cold is that a decrease in “body temperature” to 35 degrees Celsius or less is an emergency medical condition called “hypothermia”. This often occurs as a result of the loss of a large amount of internal heat from the body. This heat loss has multiple mechanisms and causes. A low body temperature is different from a local or peripheral cold infection, which can affect a part of the body, as a result of direct exposure to cold, due either to the body’s poor ability to resist it, or to lack care of a person to protect himself from the cold in the cold these areas of his body.
And the human body is not provided with fur, as in many creatures. It must regulate its temperature to maintain this “tight balance” between “gain” and “loss” of heat. That is, the human body must activate the processes of heat generation and control the processes of its diversion, in order to constantly maintain the “body temperature” within the normal rates between 36.5 and 37.5 degrees Celsius. An area of the brain called the hypothalamus functions as a thermostat for the body, constantly interacting with nerve messages from temperature receptors distributed throughout the body, whose job it is to monitor temperatures in different parts of the body. Based on the information it gathers, the hypothalamus sends the necessary instructions to perform a number of physiological processes in order to maintain a constant body temperature.
When a person is in cold weather, the core body temperature can drop for several reasons. They are classified into causes of primary (behavioral) hypothermia and secondary (physical) hypothermia. Examples of “primary” causes include not wearing enough clothing or being out in the cold for too long. Examples of “advanced” causes include certain illnesses or health conditions that cause the body’s ability to generate heat to weaken, a lack of feeling cold, or a decreased ability to maintain body heat. Such as physical exhaustion resulting from a number of chronic illnesses that impair the ability to move around, be active and pay attention to nutrition. On the other hand, there are neurological and non-neurological diseases that impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature, or in which the control of feeling cold is disturbed within the normal range of this “feeling”. Examples include advanced age, low muscle mass, underactive thyroid, malnutrition, anemia, diabetes, or stroke.
Clothes to keep warm in winter
> Tracking forecast changes in weather, temperatures and wind chill and determining when to leave the house in cold weather is the most important step in avoiding winter cold. “Pay attention to the weather forecast, so you can stay safe and warm,” say doctors at the Mayo Clinic.
In addition to paying attention to good nutrition, ensuring adequate fluid intake and heating the rooms of the house (especially at night), it is possible to avoid suffering from the cold on winter days and to warm the body in a comfortable and possible place. way, by wearing appropriate clothing, to stay warm during the winter season. The most important thing at home is to wear “layers” of loose, warm clothing. Because the warm air trapped between these loose layers of clothing acts as an insulator against the cold.
And when you go out of the house or do physical activity outside the house, it is necessary to wear appropriate outerwear and protection against cold, wind and water. But when you go out to train, it’s worth noting what doctors at the Mayo Clinic advise: “It’s a big mistake to wear too much clothing to keep warm when training in cold weather. Wear several layers of clothing that you can take off as soon as you start to sweat, then put them back on as needed. First, put on a thin layer of clothing made of a synthetic material such as polypropylene that wicks sweat away from your body. Avoid cotton that stays damp against your skin. Put on the next layer of woolen clothing to stay insulated. Wear an outer layer of waterproof, breathable clothing over it.
Care should also be taken to warm the head, hands and feet. This is done by wearing a headgear that completely covers your ears. The best is made of thick wool or another warm fabric that protects against wind and water. This is to prevent body heat from escaping from the head, face and neck, and to prevent frostbite on the scalp.
And wear appropriately sized socks that absorb moisture and form insulation, along with shoes that resist water leaks. MayoClinic doctors add, “Wear a thin pair of gloves with a wicking liner (like polypropylene). And don’t forget to wear a hat to protect your head, or a headband to protect your ears. And if it’s too cold, consider wearing a woolen scarf.
Appropriate clothing to protect children from the cold
> Protecting children from cold spells requires mothers and fathers to ensure their good nutrition and keep them warm by wearing thick clothing made of materials that provide warmth inside and outside the home , and covering the child with blankets or quilts appropriately during the sleep period.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned of parents’ lack of interest in choosing appropriate clothing for children during the cold winter period. She said the winter period presents a challenge for parents in their attempts to dress their children in correct and useful clothes during the cold. She advised the child to wear several layers of relatively thin clothing, starting with relatively tight, long and loose cotton underwear that covers the upper and lower limbs, and then wearing outer garments such as shirts, pants and trousers with long sleeves that also extend to the ends, then a third layer of a woolen jacket or a thermal shirt or a jacket with a collar that wraps around the neck and a veil which covers the head when needed.
MayoClinic pediatricians report that to help prevent hypothermia when children are outdoors in the winter:
Dress infants and young children in one more layer than adults would wear in similar situations.
Take children home if they start to shiver, as this is the first sign of hypothermia.
Bring the children inside the house frequently to warm up when they play outside.
Do not let children sleep in a cold room.
* Consultant in internal medicine