How to

29 April 2016

Debunking the Myths of Cold Weather and Body Heat

Regardless of the cold, in spite of it in fact, snow inspires and delights, unless you have to shovel out a spot for the car. Where children are concerned, when there is more than a sprinkling of snow they will be out playing in it. Mums will ever insist on at least four layers before a romp in the snow. Her heart is in the right place; snow angels aren’t quite as magical when the damp gets in through the bottom of pants, or when snow tumbles into coats.

Winter’s grasp has been long this year, bleeding into spring as the country keeps a tight hold on winter jackets and boots. With the chill fresh in mind (how could it not be), here are some debunked myths and tips for staying warm. Share them with your Mum next time she tells you to layer your socks.


1. Dressing warmly prevents sickness
  • The common cold and flu are spread through exposure to the virus. It has nothing to do with dressing for the weather.

2. Breathing onto hands
  • In the moment, the air will warm your hands, but once the moistness dampens the skin it will quickly become cold again.

3. Drinking spirits
  • The initial impression of warmth is not worth the expansion of blood vessels caused by alcohol. This allows for more blood to come to the surface, evidenced by a flush in the cheek or neck, which will cool before cycling back to your core.
  • Everybody knows that alcohol is a big culprit of dehydration which is opposite to the desired effect when expending energy in the cold.

4. Hot drinks warm the body
  • Having a warm drink to battle the onset of cold could work if you do not sweat. If that happens, the sweat will leave you colder in the end.

5. More heat is lost through your head
  • Wearing a hat in cold weather is a wise choice in that it covers up more surface area, but only 7-10% of body heat is lost through the head. That’s hardly a majority.
  • For children, covering the head is a little more important as they lose more heat than we do with a bare head. 

6. Layer your socks
  • Unless you have oversized boots, wearing two pairs of socks simply restricts blood flow by cutting off circulation to the feet. This can potentially result in frostbite.

7. Men and women react to cold in the same way
  • The core body temperature for women is higher than it is for men, perhaps because of a higher fat percentage in women as opposed to a higher muscle content in men.
  • The set point temperature, the external temperature at which bodies begin to conserve heat, is different for men and women.
  • Hormones attribute to an ever-changing internal temperature.


1. When selecting cold weather accessories, mittens are a warmer choice than gloves. Having a grouping of fingers means a nice pocket of warmth. Gloves are a great second option when dexterity is required.

2. With enough patience, hands can be trained to withstand the cold. If exposed to the cold and pushed to withstand it routinely, the shock of it will be less and less drastic over time.

3. Though not entirely tried and true, evidence related to how bird plumage functions suggests that white clothing can trap body heat.

4. Thinking warm thoughts can minimize a person’s reaction to cold and, in the case of a practiced meditator, body temperature can be raised. This transitory tip is difficult, but give it a shot!

5. Long johns made of wool or synthetic fibre are brilliant at wicking away moisture and containing a nice core of heat. Adversely, long johns made of cotton will soak up moisture, keeping a damp, cold layer close to the body.

6. Loneliness or exclusion can contribute to a sense of cold, so venturing out and bonding with friends over hot cocoa can take the edge off of the biting chill. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).