Many jobs require employees to work outside. Park rangers, police officers, construction workers, maintenance workers, firefighters, and first responders all need to work regardless of the weather. During cold winter months, these individuals must deal with ice, snow, and a low-temperature environment. These conditions are not only uncomfortable but can be hazardous and unhealthy.
Cold Weather Effects
Your body will go through some changes as it reacts to the cold. The extent of these changes depends on the temperature and the length of exposure, with more severe effects occurring after long-term exposure to severe cold.
Some effects from the cold, like headaches, frostnip, and shivering, usually don’t result in permanent injury, but longer exposure to severe cold is different. It may cause frostbite, leading to gangrene and amputation of extremities. Working in cold weather can lead to heart attacks, stroke, and accidents due to impaired mental functions. Slipping on snow or ice can cause sprains, bruises, broken bones, concussions, and more.
Avoiding Cold Weather Effects
As long as you’re not caught in the cold by accident, it’s not hard to safeguard yourself against winter weather, even if you have to work outside all day long. The following tips can help keep you safe, healthy, and warm.
Tip One – Clothing Does More Than Keep You Warm
Standard winter clothes include insulated gloves, boots, a hat, and a coat. Adding long underwear, heavy pants, and arranging a multi-layered system with your winter outdoor clothes is key to surviving extreme conditions.
This attire is intended to trap air, which is important since air is an excellent insulator. It’s also important not to sweat, so make sure to put moisture-wicking material against your skin. This will help to keep you dry. Next, add thicker layers to retain body heat. Follow it up with an outer layer that is water resistant and able to block the wind.
Layers of insulation may have a secondary benefit. A thick layer of clothes between you and the world can help prevent serious injury if you fall. It’s not a guarantee but it’s better than nothing, especially around your knees and elbows.
Tip Two — Avoid Moisture & Sweating
Water removes the insulating ability of almost every material, and that can result in dangerous chilling. If you get wet, change into dry clothes immediately. Sweating works the same way, but starts with your innermost layer. If you are working and start to sweat, open your coat or remove some outer layers until you are no longer sweating.
Tip Three – Hydration & Nutrition are Not Optional
If you are laboring in the cold, make sure to drink enough water. Alcohol and caffeine don’t work well with the cold, even if they might make you feel better for a short time.
Food fuels your metabolism, which controls your body temperature. Your metabolism burns more calories in cold weather than in warm weather. Carrying chocolate and high-calorie snacks is a good idea if you are spending many hours in the great outdoors.
Tip Four – Rest & Breaks are Mandatory
Whether you work hard or are merely walking through snowdrifts, make sure to take rest breaks. Strokes and heart attacks occur most frequently in winter months, so mind your respiration and heart rate. Stop and rest if you find yourself breathing hard. This will also help prevent you from sweating.
Tip Five – Don’t Rest Too Long
Breaks are good but don’t overdo it. Activity will help keep you warm, so maintain a balance between activity and rest to keep your body temperature high and avoid sweating and wearing yourself out.
Tip Six – Understand Hypothermia And Frostbite
Avoid these conditions by understanding what they look like in the beginning stages.
If your hands or feet begin to lose feeling, this is a sign of frostbite. Stop what you are doing immediately and warm the affected areas. Ignoring these signs means you risk losing fingers, toes, or the tip of your nose, for example, from amputation. Complications from frostbite can be fatal.
If you are feeling drowsy and you are shivering, resist the urge to close your eyes and rest because you may fall asleep. Shivering and exhaustion can be a sign that hypothermia is near, and it can be fatal. Force yourself to move and get to a place where you can warm up immediately.
Tip Seven – Warm Up Before You Go Outside
Do a little exercise indoors before you go out in the cold. This will help to boost your core temperature and give you a little buffer time before you feel the cold. This works like deliberately hyperventilating works to increase oxygen levels in the blood when freediving. Pre-warming may help you eliminate some of the heavy clothing you might normally wear if you know the exposure will be short-lived. Make sure to wear boots and gloves, because your feet and hands will lose heat much faster than the rest of your body.
Tip Eight – Slipping, Falling, & Other Injuries
Twisted joints, back injuries, sprains, torn muscles, and other problems can happen from slipping even if you don’t fall, so watch your footing.
Ice can form sharp points and edges that can rip clothing and cut flesh. Be careful around broken ice, and if you cannot immediately replace damaged attire, try to mitigate the heat loss. One way is to cover the torn clothes with a layer of plastic followed by a cloth wrap to hold it in place, followed up by a protective layer of plastic to keep moisture out. Candy bar wrappers, discarded plastic bags, and duct tape can work in a pinch.
Stay Healthy & Employed
Injuries and lost time at work may both increase in winter months. No employer wants sick workers and few employees want to be sidelined due to ill health, so take a moment before entering the outdoors to check yourself. Adequate preparation in winter months takes only a few minutes in most cases and failure to do so may result in lifetime complications or worse.
About the Creator
Jordan McDowell is a writer and second amendment rights advocate. As a proud advocate for responsible gun rights nationwide, he writes about recreational hunting as well as the latest developments in state and national legislation.