Winter Survival Tips

The Polar Vortex caused extreme cold temperatures across much of the U.S. this winter, and Raynaud’s sufferers weren’t the only ones looking for winter survival tips.

Fortunately a lot of information was published to help even non-Frosties stay safe through this bone-chilling weather. We summarized some of the tips below.

First, the New York Times interviewed Chicagoans who work outdoors – these are experts in fighting cold temperatures. Tips included:

  • A crossing guard said her secret weapon is rubber gloves. She wears a thin pair under her thick winter gloves. The thin rubber keeps the moisture in so cold air won’t come through. She picked up this tip from her father who owned a car wash and spent lots of time in the cold Chicago outdoors, so guess it’s kind of a family tradition, but got to admit, it’s hard to believe thin rubber can shield that well from the icy cold even under really warm gloves. She also wears lots of layers, snow pants and a wool hat that covers everything but her eyes and nose. Might want to rethink having that nose peeking through!
  • A doorman in downtown Chicago swears by his snow pants, but not just any snow pants – these are designed for arctic explorers, promising to keep you warm at minus 120 degrees! Special features include reinforced pads on the backside and knees. He adds heavy duty boots that claim to hold in warmth up to minus 140 degrees. No wonder this guy is creating enough body heat to stand outside all day! Wonder where he finds these items? We searched the web and couldn’t find any pants offering warmth beyond minus 35 degrees.
  • A worker who cleans coaches on the city’s commuter trains lives by the mantra “Never stop moving.” He wears lots of layers, of course, but believes the key is movement, you move and you stay warm. Don’t you wish it were that easy?
  • The owner of a dog walking and cat feeding service picked up a warm habit living in Minnesota as a child – clothes dryers (finally a tip you can sink your warm hands into!). When playing outdoors in Minnesota, he and his friends would stop at laundromats and throw their coats in the dryers to warm them up, then head out to play again. Now his dog walkers do the same – starting with a dryer warm-up prior to heading outside (hoping clients don’t mind their borrowing a little heat).
  • A FedEx driver has an odd way to stay warm – not using the heat in his truck (huh?). He claims it’s better to layer up and stay in a consistent temperature throughout the day. It’s true that dramatic changes in temperatures can trigger Raynaud’s attacks, so there may be something to avoiding blasts of heat in the truck in-between exposure to frigid weather during deliveries. He claims it at least has kept him healthy over the years, while he sees other drivers in and out of the heat and cold getting sick.

Here’s the full article in the New York Times: Cold Weather Tips From Chicagoans Who Really Know What They’re Talking About. If any of these tips work for you, or you find some of the gear they describe, please let us know!

The Mayo Clinic has a section on avoiding hypothermia that follows an easy to remember acronym: COLD – the letters stand for Cover, Overexertion, Layers, Dry.

  • Cover – Wear layers to ensure heat doesn’t escape from your head and neck. Cover hands with mittens instead of gloves for added warmth.
  • Overexertion – Avoid activities that make you sweat, as you lose body heat more quickly when the body is wet in cold weather.
  • Layers – Wear loose fitting layers. Outer layer should be water and wind-repellent. Wool, silk and polypropylene layers closer to the body help wick away the sweat better than cotton.
  • Dry – This is a theme throughout the above tips – remove wet clothing quickly and avoid getting hands and feet wet (hard to do in the snow!).

Here’s the full page from the Mayo Clinic’s web site on Hypothermia.

During the recent deep freeze, the New York Times also published an article on avoiding frostbite and hypothermia. Much of the information is familiar to Frosties, as the symptoms for frostbite are similar to a standard Raynaud’s attack (tingling, numbness, discoloration caused by blood vessels shutting down in the extremities to protect the body’s vital organs). The only difference is that in extreme cold conditions, it can cause a more dangerous outcome.

We did, however, find a few items in the article that we’d not been aware of and wonder if they would apply to someone experiencing a severe Raynaud’s attack. For example, blood pressure tends to rise during exposure to the cold. In the process, blood becomes thicker and can cause clots that, in the extreme, can potentially result in heart attacks and strokes.

One warning in the Times’ article relates to cell phones. It seems they can shut down under extreme cold conditions. While you may be wondering why that’s important in an article about protecting the body from dangers associated with freezing conditions, keep in mind our cell phones can be critical if you need to call for help in a cold emergency. Keeping the phone close to the body (e.g., shirt or pants pocket) can help keep it working until you are safely back in warmer temperatures.

Here’s the full article in the New York Times: How to Avoid Frostbite and Hypothermia in Extreme Cold Weather.

How do you deal with extreme cold conditions? Please share your ideas and strategies with us!

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