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Myths and Tips About Dressing for Winter

Do you know enough about the cold to keep warm? 

Poor planning of a winter outing can lead to frostbite and hypothermia. The following are some misconceptions about the cold and suggestions for staying toasty this winter. 

Myth: Dressing warmly prevents colds, viruses, and flu.

Mom was wrong on this one — mostly. If you haven't been exposed to a virus, cold weather won't make any difference. There are over 200 viruses that can cause the common cold. 

Myth: You lose body heat through your head.

There's nothing special about your head. You'll lose body heat from any part of your body that is exposed. It's a good idea to wear a hat, but other parts of your body must also be covered to keep you from getting cold, experts say. 

The amount of heat you can lose through your head depends on a number of factors, including how thick your hair is and how much energy you use in the cold. The ratio of the surface area of a child's head relative to the child's body surface area is much greater than that of an adult. Children lose proportionally more heat through their heads. Hoods and hats are more important to children because of this. 

Myth: Men and women feel cold at the same temperature.

Ever notice that women's hands and feet tend to get colder before men's? It's because the external temperature at which men’s and women's bodies begin conserving heat — called the set point temperature — varies by about 3°. 

When surrounding temperatures drop to a certain point, your body will conserve heat by shutting off the blood flow to the hands and feet, making them feel chilled.

Myth: Dress in layers to stay warm.

It's true that dressing in layers allows people to adjust for different levels of activity. But one warm garment that is well-made will do just as well to keep away the winter chills. 

Dressing in layers does make sense, particularly for someone exercising in the cold. For the best results, wear polypropylene or another man-made fabric next to the skin, a knit middle layer (which can be taken off if you get too warm), and a man-made outer layer. 

Myth: Drinking alcohol will keep you warm.

Drinking alcohol may make you feel warm because it causes blood to rush to your skin's surface. But it actually causes your blood vessels to widen and makes you lose heat faster. Drinking alcohol in the cold also decreases the shivering process, which makes extra body heat. 

But the worst part about alcohol consumption is that it impairs judgment.  

Winter cold can be dangerous if you are not ready, or if you have prepared by following false information. Prepare now by educating yourself about the safest ways to protect yourself when the cold arrives.

Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Susan K. Dempsey-Walls RN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2024
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.