What Should I Do?

Preparing for Cold Weather

Layers, Patterns, and Every Day Carry
Monday, January 6, 2014, 6:24 PM

The notion of preparing for cold weather has radically different meanings between geographic locations. A person living in Louisiana will have different needs than someone in Wyoming, and as such, it’s important to discuss what environments create “cold,” the types of cold, and how they create thermal injuries.  There are differing schools of thought, but the following is a good cross-section that should help you get a hook set in Old Man Winter and keep his icy fingers off you as much as possible. Too often these days, people dress for the “indoors,” in which the climate is controlled. That’s fine, so long as you can absolutely guarantee you won’t be exposed to the elements. Otherwise, it’s smart to plan ahead.

Types of Cold

Ambient Cold

Cold can be defined as an absence of heat. It is the ‘de facto’ state of the universe, and as such, we are remarkably lucky to live on a planet that has heat sinks, rather than scorching heat during the day and incomprehensible cold at night. The absence of heat can generally be looked at as the by-product of the seasons. As the earth rotates around the sun, a 21.5 degree “tilt” about its axis creates uneven thermal heating and gives us the four seasons we enjoy (or hate, if you’re a tropics lover). Without that tilt, we would only have two seasons, and weather as we know it would be entirely different. So our first type of cold is ambient cold. It’s simply a lack of heat, and it’s an environmental phenomenon.

With ambient cold, we typically see less dramatic impacts, as the sun can still be shining (in the mid and equatorial latitudes, and at the poles for a solid 6-months-on/6-months-off pattern). Because of the solar angle, more light is reflected into space, and thus less hits the Earth’s surface to be radiated about the lower troposphere (where we live).

Because of this, ambient cold often seems to be “warmer” than other types. You’re still collecting some solar radiation (warmth), and even under clear, cold conditions, a tremendous amount of insulation may not be necessary.

Environmental Cold

Environmental Cold is the cold we experience due to meteorological phenomenon; it’s the combination between Ambient Cold and “x”, with x being variable weather conditions. The most common cold-inducing environmental effects are wind and rain. They can lead to deadly thermal injuries if not managed, and fortunately, they’re the conditions that we have the most influence over. If you look back to the Survival Saw, behind breathable oxygen, shelter is the second most potent impact and we can survive exposure for only around 3 hours though in severe cases, the impacts of thermal injury will set on within minutes.

While this might seem self-evident, the first and best way of mitigating environmental cold is just simply avoidance. If you don’t have to go out, don’t!  Set yourself up so that you don't have to go out or can minimize the amount of time you spend outside.

A little pre-planning here will go a long way – most of our outdoor activities during cold revolve around other things that are similarly impacted by cold: our vehicles, pets or livestock, or tasks such as collecting firewood.  Insulation on or around watering troughs, raising your windshield wipers, and bringing in wood in advance of an ice storm or freezing spell, for example, will help make your job easier and keep you out of the cold as much as possible. If you live in a cold climate, consider how these temperatures will impact your vehicles, especially. Fluids left in the vehicles can freeze, and this can lead to cracked heads, hoses, and radiators, if not protected. Long story short, it behooves one to keep the garage clean enough to park one's car in it, or you may well be risking serious damage to your vehicle.

Protection Against the "X"

When you set out into the cold, it’s important to consider which variables you’re going to face. A stiff wind will sap the heat off your body from the exterior; this makes the ambient temperature feel colder than it is, and this is commonly referred to as “wind chill.”  Wind chill can be estimated by using some pretty simple observations, called the Beaufort Scale, which is extremely well represented in the following graphic:

Figure 1: The Beaufort Scale
(Source)
 

Get comfortable with the wind speeds and how they correspond to visible effects on your surrounding environment. Once you can see how the wind impacts the world around you and mentally link that to a wind speed, it’s not too much work to anticipate just how cold it will feel outside, and therefore we can plan accordingly. The following this chart put out by the National Weather Service demonstrates the wind’s impact on Ambient Cold:

Figure 2: NWS Windchill
(Source)

Preparing for the Cold

Cold is mitigated in “layers” (very similar to the “lines” concept discussed in Every Day Carry - EDC). Each additional layer is additive to and performs functions in excess of the previous layer.

Figure 3: Layers from innermost to outermost
Photo by Aaron Moyer

Base Layer

Base layers are generally thought of as thermal underwear. The function of the base layer is twofold: It traps heat close to the surface of your body and wicks away moisture. If it fails at one of these two tasks, the result is an uncomfortable and possibly unhygienic experience. Be sure to keep these clean, as the moisture these wick away is going to be warm sweat, which creates an ideal environment for bacteria. There are many types available with varying degrees of effectiveness, comfort, weight, and cost. Wool, for example, is certainly warm, but it’s often expensive. This example is Merino wool, which is a good deal lighter, but still much heavier than other options. Old polypropylene can be had for fairly cheap, but it’s bulky and not amazingly comfortable under clothes. Capilene is both thin and very effective, but a set of long underwear and a shirt can cost north of $100.

Mid Layer

The mid layer is probably the most flexible and constitutes the greatest number of wear options, overall. Without getting all REI on you, these are shirts and sweaters, referred to as “mid layer” because they go between a jacket and your underwear. Pretty simple. There are a number of synthetic fibers that are available these days, almost all of which are some sort of polyester and acrylic combination. This is for good reason; polyester fabrics generally repel liquids pretty well, don’t take flame (see melts quickly instead of catching fire), it doesn’t sustain microbes very well, and perhaps most importantly, it wicks away moisture much better than cotton. Considering these factors, they’re a good bet for long-term, hard use, and you’ll find that most ‘performance outerwear’ is made from polyester fabrics. As homage to organic Chemistry, polyesters are long-chain polymers that feature esters as the predominant functional group. They’re formed by reacting carboxylic acid and alcohol. (Gee whiz; it came in handy after all.)

Outer Layer

The outer layer is to fabric what the mid layer is to clothing types. There has been a ton of development on outer layers, and you’ll hear terms thrown around freely that sales people expect you won’t understand: eVent fabric, Gore-Tex, OmniDry, NeoShell, and so on. These generally are layers of proprietary materials stacked on one another to do exactly what we talked about earlier: keep you warm and wick away moisture. The difference between the base layer and the outer layer is that the outer layer has the additional responsibility of keeping those “x” factors off you. They have varying degrees of wind and water resistance, which generally increase with cost. These are pretty effective against “normal” cold (see: temperatures of about 40 degrees Fahrenheit and up, for limited duration) when used in conjunction with mid and base layers, once you start looking at frigid cold and protracted durations, something more insulated becomes necessary.  Articles such as the insulated Climashield jackets from Propper do an excellent job of heat retention at a lightweight. A pretty elaborate analysis was provided by REI in this article: http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/rainwear-how-it-works.html. This should bridge the gap between the basics and more advanced understandings of how these materials work.

Involuntary Exposure

Everyone loves running around in their performance outerwear, fully prepared for the eruption of a spontaneous adventure…but life has opportunities to spoil our plans. Whether it’s a plane wreck or getting stranded, you might not be wearing the necessary goods to keep the thermal environment tilted in your favor. Weathering yourself in this case might require a bit of improvisation. To this point, we’ve talked about the materials that are effective in keeping you alive, mainly wool and polyester blends. It’s extremely important to mention a common mantra at this point: “Cotton Kills.” This is something you’ll hear around mountaineers often; cotton doesn’t wick moisture, and in the cold, it will draw the heat off your body through sweat or any ambient moisture. If you’re out exposed to the elements in nothing but cotton, your timeline to get to shelter just got serious.

If you happen to be wearing cotton when the unexpected becomes your temporary reality, try to be as resourceful as you can. Often as not, when there are cold and rain, there are fallen leaves. Fallen leaves (brown and dry) can be used as impromptu insulation by stuffing the space between your layers with handfuls. This will create dead air space, which blocks the chilling impacts of the wind and mitigates the amount of water able to seep through your clothes. Most people know well that thermal injuries, and in specific, cold, tend to impact the most distal extremities first, which means your fingers and toes will be in jeopardy before your core. Especially your feet, as you have very little ability to prevent your feet from touching the cold, wet earth. Again, improvising can provide a good ‘temporary’ solution. Things such as plastic grocery sacks can be placed between layers of socks to keep one layer dry. If you’ve only got one pair of socks, the bag between your socks and shoes will help keep your little piggies from running to the market looking for relief from frostbite. It’s also important to note that most of your socks are made from 100% cotton. Try to find wool or synthetics that will help wick the moisture, if you know there’s cold weather coming your way. You’ll be warmer and your feet will stay drier.

Socks are the first part of footwear, so the next and possibly most important is your shoes or boots. Good shoes are going to be made from as few pieces as possible. The more stitching and pieces involved, the more places there are to spring leaks, split, and separate. While boots are outside the scope of this article, good boots will go a long ways towards keeping your feet healthy, and that’s tremendously important. Give your shoes a great deal of consideration…proper footwear depends on a tremendous amount of elements, such as intended use, style and dress code, desired load, ankle support, and tread. In short, buy shoes or boots that fit your intended uses and are known to be long-lasting.

Tricks of the Trade

Many people have heard the saying red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky in morning, sailors take warning. There are quite a few of these old colloquialisms, and there is some science behind them. To cap this article off, I’ll discuss a few and how they can help you observe what weather might be headed for your, so you can plan accordingly.

Red sky at night…

This saying has some merit, interestingly enough. Red sky is a measure of how solar radiation interacts with particulates in the atmosphere, and the particles that appear red on the visible spectrum are associated with high pressure, as these particles tend to concentrate in areas of high pressure. When you see it to your east, (in the Northern Hemisphere) that means that the high pressure is moving off, and will be replaced with lower pressure, less stable air mass. The opposite, red sky at night, means that the stable column of air is moving towards you, and decent weather will result. It’s also worth noting that the coldest weather is generally 48 hours behind the passage of a cold front. That’s because high pressure and stable air indicates that the cold air is below the warm air. Because of this, we can expect ambient cold, generally accompanied by some sunshine.

Dew on the grass, high pressure will last

Another proverb with some backing in science, the observation of water particles on the ground indicates that subsidence (the settling of cold air) has pressed moisture to the ground. This is a strong indicator of high pressure and generally indicates that you’re solidly under a stable air mass. The same thing applies to the wisdom that states if your woodsmoke is pressed to the ground, you’re under high pressure…whereas if your smoke rises quickly, the pressure is trending towards low.

Figure 4: High Pressure
(Source)

Figure 5: Low Pressure
(Source)

Horse-tails bring rain

The very high, wisps of clouds known as cirrus, or commonly “horsetails,” are really ice crystals that are in the upper levels of the troposphere. These crystals had to get to that height somehow, and that almost always means that they were “pushed” aloft by a front. Therefore, horsetails can generally be thought to preclude a front by 24-48 hours.

Figure 6: Cirrus before a front; note how it curves upwards. It is overriding high pressure
(Source)

If you can’t see your shadow…

As light passes through various types of clouds, it will be strong enough to allow you to see your shadow, or so dense that a significant amount of the radiation is “trapped” in the clouds and doesn’t let through enough light to cast a shadow. The reason for this is that clouds close to the ground are less dense and are generally created by surface heating. The puffy “popcorn” clouds (cumulus) are associated with fair weather, and you’ll be able to see your shadow. The very high clouds are too thin to block out the light that casts shadows. However, the thick banks of clouds that create light too diffuse to cast a shadow are cause by the approach of a front, more often than not (and especially in the U.S., east of the Rockies) signify that you’re going to have a significant weather change, and more likely than not, some rain.

Figure 7: Diffuse Light through Altostratus
(Source)

This is just a bit of general wisdom that doesn’t get too specific, but will make you right about the weather more often than not. Obviously, it’s meant to be used in conjunction with other verifying techniques, but give it a try and see if it doesn’t help you plan to dress for the weather.

Cheers.

~ Aaron Moyer

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13 Comments

SailAway's picture
SailAway
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
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Posts: 404
What about the yard?

Just curious,

What did you do to protect your yard, trees, plants and whatever you grow in your garden to survive this polar temperature? Do you cover them with blankets?

 

A. M.'s picture
A. M.
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Posts: 2367
interestingly enough I just

interestingly enough I just had a conversation about this with a very knowledgeable Master gardener this last weekend. My present location doesn't allow me to do any gardening on the scale I would like to, so for me, the experience very seasonal.

From what I've seen, and I'm not qualified to speak on it at any length, is that a combination of earthen insulation, "plankets" (plant blankets) and greenhouse are the most reliable ways of sheltering your yield.

As to trees, trees in my native area are very hearty to the cold and even required for germination in some cases. Unless ice buildup is a problem, the only protects against the cold I am familiar with are things like smudging. I truly hope to see input from those more knowledge of myself on the topic.

Thanks for the question, SailAway. I hope that there is a good dialogue regarding this.
Cheers,
Aaron

Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
Status: Peak Prosperity Team (Offline)
Joined: Mar 17 2008
Posts: 409
I think it depends a bit on where you live and the usual weather

Aaron, thanks for a great article.  I'm going to have my preteens and teens read it to understand why I'm always pushing woolen long johns and socks.  They can be expensive (we love Smartwool base-layer long-johns and tops), but with diligent care, such as mending small holes before they turn into larger ones, they can last and last.

As for your gardening questions, SailAway, I approach gardening with the philosophy that if it isn't going to survive in my garden, it doesn't belong in my garden.  (That's just me -- I'm practical, strapped for time, and not interested in coddling exotics, not that there is anything wrong with doing that if you're so inclined.)  I'm planning to put in some beach plum bushes this spring that will be right in the path of where the snow sheds off the roof, so I'm going to have to build some seasonally reusable wooden tents to protect them.  Otherwise, for perennials, I plant only really hardy stuff that can take the cold (and also the occasional bouts of extreme heat/humidity that we sometimes get in summer.)  In planning perennial plantings, I'm aiming for hardiness to at least one zone colder than the zone I'm in, just in case.

Here in Vermont, it's not unusual for winter temps to go down in the negative teens at least a few times in the winter (sometimes many times), and we typically get at least 2-3 (sometimes more) separate snowtorms of at least 8-12", so I think most people consider this when planting perennials, trees, etc. We are conditioned here to expect that once the hard frost comes and the ground freezes, everything's lost until spring (unless it's in a greenhouse or other protected/heated space).  So I think most people here are already capable of dealing with the occasional deeper-harder-freeze.  It's the more temperate areas of the country where it's probably a huge shock, where cold winter weather isn't the norm.  

Also, this week I had to take extra care in my (insulated but unheated) pantry to make sure the root veggies, squash, and apples didn't freeze.  I kept a conventional lightbulb on (figured if it worked for chickens, it would work for potatoes) and kept the door cracked open to keep the room temp just above freezing.

I would be concerned about damage to fruit trees in ice storms.  I've never taken precautions in that area -- but would hate to have a tree damaged badly by heavy ice.  Another concern would be a very late, very cold freeze, after the trees have budded already.  That's not a risk here where I am in the Northeast, but I wonder about other areas of the country.  If it were April and we got hit with a polar vortex, I might well be putting blankets on my bushes and trees at that time.

Some off-grid friends had trouble getting their water to flow -- I am not sure whether their pipes froze or they simply didn't have enough electricity (solar) to run their water pump.  They are hardy folks, but with children and small livestock, it was certainly an inconvenience.  Something to think about -- again, I'd recommend prepping for temps a bit colder than the usual "low" in your area; i.e., insulating pipes even if they're not usually at risk for freezing, etc.  Have a Plan B for all of your systems if possible.  Make sure you've got stored food to eat if a late frost damages your garden at a critical time.  (And at the same time, I'd prep for temps a bit higher than the usual high as well.)

These occasional weather extremes are a good wake-up call and cautionary tale for those who heed the warning to improve their preps, home insulation, heating system, clothing stash, etc.  I suspect many people will not see that for what it is.  Maybe it's enough if those of us who think about these things try to plant the seeds in conversations with our neighbors. 

SailAway's picture
SailAway
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Posts: 404
Re: I think it depends a bit on where you live and the usual wea

Thank you Amanda this is interesting.

I recall when I was a kid in my parents’ house in the south of France we lost a few lemon and orange trees during an unusual cold winter. As you wrote, we were not prepared for this much cold in a temperate area.

We’ll find out soon enough when this is over if there is a lot of damage in the southern part of the country.

Fred

 

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1982
one gardener's experience

Speaking from the southern part of the USA, South Carolina, I want to commend Amanda for only planting things that can handle Vermont winters. Her idea about making wooden tents for the plum trees is a sound one. My parents did that for foundation plantings around their house in New Hampshire. They painted whimsical snowmen on them and made them part of their holiday decorations.

I also have only trees and plants that can handle our climate extremes, with two exceptions. With any exceptions, you need to know exactly how cold-hardy they are and allow for the wind chill. And you have to look at the location of such plantings: one of our at-risk trees is sheltered from our usual wind patterns, but it was not sheltered for the wind direction last night.

Last night we had a low of 15 F and a wind chill of 1 F (the average temp for Jan 6 in this part of SC is 55 F.) Two of our trees are only hardy to 10 F, so the wind chill was a problem. We have an 1-ft-high olive tree sapling, which got extra pine straw mulch, and a 3.5-ft tall, 4-year-old, cold-hardy Brown's Satsuma orange tree, which we surrounded with high tomato cages and then added a sheet and a tarp. We clipped and weighted the tarp down. Both came through the night just fine. We took the protection off at about 11 this morning, when the wind chill was above 19 degrees.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1982
cotton long johns, etc

When I was in construction management, I routinely worked outside in winter weather. We used bread bags in between our sock layers: cotton socks inside the bags and wool socks outside. A layer of Thinsulate in your boots was a must. We wore cotton long johns, in really cold weather two pairs, and protected our hands with cotton gloves, vinyl gloves and then heavy water-proof gloves (and still shoved our hands in our pockets. A lot.) The mid layer was usually a tee, cardigan, and sweatshirt, and jeans with sweats overtop. Finally, we wore Carhart one-piece insulated jumpsuits over everything, and a scarf under our hats and insulated hardhat liners. You learned to breathe in via your nose to warm the air, and to breathe out via your mouth  through your scarf - or you would fog up you safety glasses (Rainex helped the fog problem). Please note that some of our cold-weather gear was a larger size to allow for the extra layers. My cold-weather construction boots were too large for me unless I had on multiple layers of socks, for example.

You also brought a complete change of clothes in case you got wet. Needless to say, peeling off the multiple layers to use the rest room was...a chore, and you went right back outside since you were too warm indoors.

But you CAN work in this sort of weather, if you're careful.  On jobs like these we had a specific shed warmed so that men could come inside whenever they needed to warm up. Then they went right back out there and broke the ice off the crane treads and did what needed to be done.

Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
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Wendy S. Delmater
Wendy S. Delmater wrote:

Speaking from the southern part of the USA, South Carolina, I want to commend Amanda for only planting things that can handle Vermont winters. Her idea about making wooden tents for the plum trees is a sound one. My parents did that for foundation plantings around their house in New Hampshire. They painted whimsical snowmen on them and made them part of their holiday decorations.

Well, anything that isn't cold-hardy gets to be an annual, if it's worth it to replant every year.

I'm not entirely sure that my "go one zone colder" plan will always suffice, but it seems a good idea to go in that direction!  People I know who have pushed things by planting "one zone warmer" and hoping for the best have had results that I would find disappointing.  At our last home, we had some apple trees that were in the "optimistic" category and had sustained cold damage.  Just seems prudent to me to not waste the time/money on something that is less likely to survive.

That said, I've thought about getting a tropical tree or two to keep inside by the woodstove in the winter...citrus, figs, something like that...I'm not sure it would get enough light, though, unfortunately, because of where our woodstove is placed.

Am also thinking about ways to turn our (cold) pantry into a (warmer) greenhouse-like room someday.  For now, it's the best place in the house for root-cellaring, but if I were to build a "cold room" in the cellar (enclosing a window), I could use the pantry for warmer pursuits, as it does get fabulous sun.  I do have some lettuce growing in there -- it's not happy, but it is alive and green.  Kale would probably do well in there, also.

But none of that is helpful in this year's chill.  I guess the helpful thing is knowing that the weather WILL thaw and we will get a yearly chance to reassess and replant and maybe put in something hardier if it seems smart to do that.

Love that your parents had a decorative use for a practical object!  Ours would not be seen from the road, but I guess that's all the more reason to let the kids decorate them...(now, carpentry skills, that's something I could use practice with.)

 

SailAway's picture
SailAway
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Posts: 404
Thermal camera

That was on ABC World News last night.

At 1:20 in the video, they show an interesting infrared picture of a man where you can see heat leaking from the jacket zipper and stitches.

How to Avoid Getting Cold in Freezing Temperatures

 

 

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
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Posts: 1982
zones

Amanda, I go one zone colder in my perennials and one zone warmer in my annuals. Seems to work....

Nervous Nelly's picture
Nervous Nelly
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Posts: 209
We get nasty cold snaps up here in Montreal.

When you walk on the snow and it makes squeaks and cracks sounds "IT"S COLD" add wind factor and that gets nasty.

1/ merino wool under garments cheeky     2/ Coat, mid length with hood that's wind proof, goose down insulated   3/ Thick wool socks and thermal felt inner soles for the boots    4/ Mittens ,wind proof and insulated , gloves are useless for me in this cold.    5/ Neck tube I can pull over my nose and cheeks.

NN

 

 

 

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Posts: 3936
Migrate.

It is as hot as anything here. The middle of the day is siesta time, he reports smugly.

Just kidding- I have too much to do to rest.

Doug's picture
Doug
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Joined: Oct 1 2008
Posts: 3124
Nervous Nelly wrote: When you
Nervous Nelly wrote:

When you walk on the snow and it makes squeaks and cracks sounds "IT"S COLD" add wind factor and that gets nasty.

1/ merino wool under garments cheeky     2/ Coat, mid length with hood that's wind proof, goose down insulated   3/ Thick wool socks and thermal felt inner soles for the boots    4/ Mittens ,wind proof and insulated , gloves are useless for me in this cold.    5/ Neck tube I can pull over my nose and cheeks.

NN

 

Good advice Nelly

I strongly endorse Aaron's advice for clothing in cold weather, particularly the "base layer" section.  Cotton does kill when warn near the skin.  Use poly pro or wool to insulate and wick moisture.  In the near Arctic conditions of the Adirondacks (near where Nelly lives) it is standard procedure to layer up with poly and wool.  I was very glad that I had that clothing yesterday when, according to the NWS, our air temp was -9F and windchill was -49F.  Yes, it can be expensive, but if your life depends on it, hi tech clothing is worth it.  Also, be prepared to cover all skin, including your face.  It doesn't take much exposure to cold wind to get frostbite.

I also endorse Wendy's recommendation of Carhartt one piece jump suits.  They are great for doing any kind of physical work outside in cold conditions.

One of the things I learned winter hiking and camping in the Adirondacks is just how warm you can stay when physically active.  A friend and I were hiking in -10F temps.  We were in a forested area and protected from the wind.  It was fairly rigorous, but not highly exertional, hiking.  He stripped off his upper body layers until he was down to a t-shirt and was sweating from the exertion.  I got down to a t-shirt and thin wind breaker type jacket and was perfectly comfortable.  However, once we stopped for any length of time, we layered up again quickly.  That kind of cold sucks the heat out of you fast when you aren't creating your own.

Doug

A. M.'s picture
A. M.
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Posts: 2367
A quick word on Frostbite

Over the last few days, I've been seeing a number of media reports giving general advice about Frostbite.
First of all, they're overusing the term. Frostbite occurs in "degrees", just like burns, and therefore needs to be properly addressed before canned advice is dispensed. As with all things medical, this advice needs to come from your Doctor or other qualified medical professional - please don't just take my word for it.

So, what is frostbite? 
It's a combination of constriction of blood flow, and a freezing of the interstitial fluids between cells. In superficial cases, the skin is predominately the effected area. This causes irritation as the fluids begin to crystallize. As you know, water occupies *more* space when in a solid state, rather than less, which is a unique quality of the substance. The phenomenon of cold in general causes constriction, and this, my friends, is where we get frost nip. The vasculature of the effected area is constricting as the water content of the cells begin to freeze, harden and expand. 
Water is pretty harmless, so we forget what it looks like when it's frozen, which is something like this:

Source

The hidden message in water, in this case, is: "We can poke holes in your cells!"
Which isn't funny to anyone but the water molecules. 

This is what causes the superficial itching and pain. After a day or two, you'll end up with blisters indicating that there is tissue damage underneath that is undergoing repair. At this stage, Frostbite is almost identical to a burn. True story, I once got frost nip and sunburnt at the same time. Don't wear shorts if you're climbing mountains.  

As the problem gets worse, more profound tissues become impacted - 3rd and 4th degree frostbite begin to restrict blood flow to muscle, nerve and more profound vasculature. This is a serious problem, and the longer this occurs, the greater the likelihood of necrosis in the affected region. The ice crystals are also why rubbing the affected site can be dangerous - the more you jar the ice crystals, the more they can damage surrounding tissues. This is why it's recommended that you immobilize the site as soon as possible. 

There are times when bad ideas don't seem that bad. People, for example, have been known to throw boiling water on frozen windshields so they can see. The notion behind this is that they don't want to be late for whatever obligation they have. The problem is, when their windshield busts out entirely, they're going to be cold, late and out a few hundred dollars. 

Re-warming an area affected by frostbite is similar. Putting something hot on or around it can rewarm the superficial tissue, but it can also further damage the cells in the area. There are two major problems with re-warming:
1. If the patient is not entirely removed from risk, the warming process will thaw the fluid that is currently damaging cells, thus making it available to freeze again and damage entirely new cells, and;

2. Like the car windshield, a rapid warming will cause the crystals to thaw, which will take up less space within the vascular structures. As it happens, this generally occurs before circulation has returned to normal, and that means that appropriate levels of oxygen and nutrients cannot be brought into the damaged area, and waste materials cannot be removed. The net result, as you may have guessed is a busted windshield. Kidding. But it does cause cell death in the affected area.

So, I hope this covers some of the "why" that the media just cannot bring themselves to report to the serfs, and is helpful for recognizing how and why these thermal injuries can occur, and what will make them worse. I wish I'd taken the time to put this in the main body of the article, but all the same, thanks for reading.

Cheers,
Aaron

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