The human body responds to cold weather in three basic ways. Initially, the body produces heat through shivering. Then by shunting blood from the skin and toward major organs, the body reduces heat loss, which explains why hands turn blue in cold weather. Finally, the body releases stored sugar, providing fuel.
The body loses heat in four ways. Conduction is heat directly transferred between objects in contact. Convection is heat removed by a stream of cold air or water. Evaporation is heat absorbed by evaporating sweat. Radiation is heat emitted and absorbed by cold objects around you.
The most recognized injuries are frostbite and hypothermia. But several others exist, most linked to blood circulation problems. Raynaud's phenomenon results from chronic constriction of the hands' blood vessels. Child blains and trench foot are similar conditions.
Keep all skin covered and dress in loose layers of clothing, especially hand and footwear. Snack and drink regularly but avoid caffeine and alcohol. Most important, stay dry.
Alcohol and cold weather don't mix. Alcohol increases blood flow to the skin, inhibits shivering and increases fluid loss. Reducing pain and cold sensation along with causing poor judgment and coordination, alcohol reduces the response to early warning signals, which indicate developing problems.
Article Written By Isaac Billings
Residing in northern Michigan, Isaac Billings began writing in 2009, with articles appearing on eHow, Trails and Run.com. A wilderness EMT-paramedic and wilderness instructor, Billings enjoys writing about the outdoors, running, health and nutrition. He holds an Associates of Applied Science in emergency medicine from North Central Michigan College.