Here’s How the Extreme Cold May Affect Your Body
Here’s How the Extreme Cold May Affect Your Body
Here’s How the Extreme Cold May Affect Your Body
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Here’s How the Extreme Cold May Affect Your Body

By David STEIN

The human body can undergo transformations because of negative temperatures and ambient cold. Here's how.

The United Kingdom is experiencing a very cold episode. In several counties, temperatures could drop to -10°C or even -15°C. Several regions have also been placed on high alert as the Met Office raised it to Level 3 - Cold Weather Action.

While we may not be at the temperatures recorded in Siberia at the height of winter (from -10°C to -40°C in the easternmost regions), the cold and sub-zero temperatures tend to have an impact on the human body.

How does the human body fight the cold?

Our body has a regular temperature of 37°C. A cruising temperature that it tries by all means to maintain. With sweat in hot weather, which regulates the body and with chills in very cold weather.

These muscle contractions are triggered in the brain by the hypothalamus.

This is called thermoregulation. It is this natural 'thermostat' that will trigger several mechanisms to save us a few degrees. As a consequence, the energy deployed by the muscles during a chill is transformed into heat through thermogenesis, and our body warms up.

The consequences of cold on the body

One of the most devastating effects of temperatures that reach negative: frostbite. Indeed, when the cold is there, the body chooses to sacrifice its extremities (feet, hands) to continue to irrigate all the vital organs with blood, such as the heart. Then follows fingers that grow numb, go white, then blue and painful. If the situation is allowed to persist, it can even happen that the frostbite turns into necrosis and must be amputated.

But other unintended consequences arise with the cold.

  • Under cold pressure, the heart begins to beat faster and to consume more oxygen.
  • The walls of the nose dry out and may crack under the effect of cold air. Moreover, for asthmatics, breathing in the cold can quickly prove to be complicated.
  • The lips have a very hard time with the cold. Indeed, it often happens that the thinner epidermis dries up. This results in chapping, irritation and cracks.
  • When temperatures drop, the blood vessels contract to better supply vital organs damaged by the cold.
  • Hairs are also affected by negative temperatures. These contract to create a small isolating blanket also called 'goose bumps!' In this way, the hairs trap air against the skin and use it as a natural insulator. This is also why wind-chill is such a problem: If the wind sweeps away this layer of warm air, the feeling of cold increases further.

How not to catch a cold?

To avoid frostbite, chapping, cracks and goosebumps, it is necessary to cover yourself well. But if you are chilly by nature, we advise you to take a good hot bath and do not hesitate to consume hot drinks to hydrate yourself, preferably hot tea.

Find out how to protect your skin from the cold in our video at the top of the article!

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