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How to Prevent Frostbite

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How to prevent frostbite? Dress the part, ensuring the body is as covered and insulated as possible. That includes protecting ears, hands and head, the latter which many seemingly credible sources have claimed for decades is responsible for anywhere from 40% to up to 75% of body heat loss, though if you ask these scientists, is a rubbish myth unsupported by research.

But what does “dressing the part” entail for those less experienced with the trials and tribulations of Canadian winters? I get into that in my January and February Montreal weather guides. I also offer additional guidance by breaking down frostbite risk by temperature range as well as share what-to-do tips right here.

Other preventative measures? Do:

  • layer your clothes under that coat. An ideal base layer shirt would be composed of fabric that wicks away moisture from the skin so that sweat does not remain on the skin thus cooling down the body faster. Natural fibres such as merino wool, silk as well as synthetics such as polypropylene, polyester and fleece are excellent fabric choices in this respect.
  • tuck everything in. This is not the time for crop tops and sleeves blouses, unless you make sure to layer them with a cardigan, blazer or sweater that covers all of your trunk and arms. And make sure to seal off the neck area with a scarf and remove any sign of a draft with gloves properly tucked into your sleeves. The less openings cold air can get through, the better you'll be insulated and the longer you'll remain warm.
  • drink warm, alcohol-free beverages such as broth, hot chocolate and caffeine-free tea.
  • if wet, go inside and remove wet clothing as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, don't:

  • wear cotton. In fact, avoid cotton as much as possible in very cold weather or if remaining outside in freezing temperatures for extended periods of time. If any kind of moisture, like sweat, gets on cotton, it will let it sit on your skin and leave you feeling colder than if you wearing more appropriate fabric.
  • drink alcohol. It tricks your body into believing it's warmer than it is.
  • smoke. It constricts blood vessels, thus reducing blood circulation, making the smoker colder faster.

Sources: About.com First Aid, eMedecineHealth, Medscape, WebMD, Science Daily

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