Record-breaking cold weather has gripped the country this week, including cities unaccustomed to single-digit temperatures. Georgia Tech’s Michael N. Sawka, an adjunct professor in the School of Applied Physiology, offers tips on preventing and treating cold weather injuries.
Humans are not well acclimatized to cold weather, so prevention of cold stress to the body depends primarily on avoiding cold exposure and having adequate insulation (natural and clothing) and caloric intake to support metabolism. Body composition (heavily muscled and subcutaneous fat) is an important physiological determinant of tolerance to cold exposure.
The clothing requirement for warmth and comfort varies if at rest or performing physical activity. Clothing insulation requirements are much higher during rest and light activity than during strenuous activity, so it is important to layer clothing so it can be added or removed as needed.