Even during the chilly winter months, it’s essential to stay connected to nature by fitting in regular walks throughout your daily routine—light exercise works wonders when fighting symptoms of seasonal depression. However, it’s equally important to stay physically protected from the elements when spending extended amounts of time outside. There is a wide range of different injuries caused by over-exposure to cold weather that occur quite often, many of which can cause massive damage to your physical well-being.
Cold-weather injuries don’t just happen in frigid temperatures. The most common weather-related injuries in the winter occur in cold but not freezing climates. Chilblains are the most prevalent and least threatening ailments on this list, but the side effects are no less debilitating. Symptoms include skin irritation, redness, swelling, and blistering. Luckily, chilblains usually go away as the weather warms.
Our feet are often the most vulnerable to cold-weather injuries during the winter, often due to snow exposure. Without a trusty pair of functional boots, our feet become damp and trench foot develops. This injury causes damage to the nerves and tissues of your feet, with the skin turning blue or purple. In extreme cases, trench foot may lead to gangrene, a very destructive infection that sometimes requires amputation.
Below-freezing weather is not friendly to our bodies, and terrible injuries occur with extended exposure to these elements. The most common freezing injuries almost always stem from various forms of frostbite. Most people are unaware that there is more than one type of this ailment.
Frostnip is the mildest form of a freezing injury, mainly affecting your nose, ears, fingers, or any other exposed body part. Symptoms include painful stinging sensations on affected areas, followed by skin hardening and numbness. Frostnip, when left untreated, leads to frostbite.
Superficial frostbite is similar to frostnip but with more extreme symptoms. Most notably, your skin begins to feel hot, sometimes like it’s on fire. The most severe form of a freezing injury is deep frostbite, which effectively kills the tissue around an affected area or body part. Additionally, your joints and muscles surrounding that area will begin to lose function.
Of the different injuries caused by over-exposure to cold weather, hypothermia is the most life-threatening. Sadly, nearly 1,500 people a year fall victim to this injury in this country. Hypothermia results from your body losing more heat than it can produce, and it quickly freezes your essential organs to the point where they can no longer function properly. If you’re a free spirit who enjoys an adventure in freezing weather, ensure you are equipped with advanced cold gear clothing that will shield your body from the elements.
The easiest way to stay protected outside during the winter is by paying attention to your exposure and your body’s natural signs. If you begin to feel unwell, seek shelter and warm up. In more severe cases, such as deep frostbite or hypothermia, never hesitate to call 9-1-1 for medical intervention.