We are in the midst of winter with cold temperatures and massive wind gusts. There are many tips on keeping warm, from wearing layers to turning on the ceiling fan. It’s also important to remember to check on the elderly and keep the pets indoors.
So what physically happens to our bodies in these crazy cold temperatures?
It starts when you feel the freezing temperatures of winter in your toes and fingertips before anywhere else in the body. This happens as your body works to protect your vital organs from the cold, said Dr. Suzanne Salamon, associate chief of clinical programs at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “The blood vessels in all different parts of the body will constrict,” she said. “They’ll get smaller to try to preserve heat.”
“What the body tries really hard to do is to protect the most important organs, which are the ones deep inside: the heart and brain and lungs,” she said.
“The body tries to keep those warm by redirecting heat from the fingers and toes inward, so the blood vessels in the fingers and toes get really small, and not enough blood goes through them.”
This is important for the body to do — and to do quickly — because wintry weather has been associated with health risks for heart attacks, asthma symptoms, frostbite and hypothermia.
According to a 2015 study in the journal The Lancet, more temperature-related deaths globally occur because of cold rather than by heat. So make sure you keep warm during this freeze. Your body depends on it.