Prevention of cold-related injuries

By Lisa Piropato, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC

It is cold weather outside! Prevention of cold-related injuries is very important for those who love to exercise outdoors all year around!

Common cold-related injuries

Frostbite is direct freezing to tissues when the skin temperature drops below -0.5 degrees C. Most commonly occurs in exposed areas where there is less blood flow (nose, ears, fingers, toes).

Hypothermia is when the core body temperature drops below 35 degrees C (95 degrees F) and the heat loss is greater than heat production. Can be mild, moderate, or severe.

Risk factors for cold injury:

  • Weather combination of cold, wet, and wind
  • Wind chills less than 5 degrees F
  • Lower body fat percentage
  • Age <20 or >60
  • Underlying medical conditions that interferes with total body heat production
  • Prior cold-related injury

How to prevent a cold-related injury:

  • Dress appropriately!
    • Base layers of polypropylene, polyester, and synthetic wool
    • Avoid cotton as base layer since this traps moisture
    • Middle layer of insulation like fleece or wool
    • Outer layer to allow ventilation and protect against wind and rain
    • Hats and mittens to protect vulnerable areas
    • Make sure shoes are not too tight fitting
  • Maintaining good hydration and adequate nutrition
  • Exercise can help to increase core body temperature
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