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6 Tips for Braving the Polar Vortex

 Mother Nature has been unleashing her fury this winter with record-breaking low temperatures and wind chills that have scarcely been seen in modern times.

Braving these frigid conditions takes preparation and going out improperly dressed can have devastating consequences on your health, from frostbite to hypothermia or a severe upper respiratory infection.

Here are some tips for staying as warm and comfortable as possible as you head out into the cold.

1. Keep up the food supply to properly heat the body. Make sure you eat a good meal before spending any extended time outdoors. Also be sure to stay hydrated. It is easy to dehydrate in the winter without realizing it.

2. Wear several light, comfortably fitted layers of clothing. You don’t want to feel like an overstuffed plush toy as you try to get around. Generally an under layer, a mid-layer and an outer-layer will do.

3. For the under-layer, wear two-ply long johns and undershirts (cotton on the inside for comfort, wool on the outside for warmth). This is typically warmer than thermal knit underwear. Then put on two pairs of socks: a thinner pair of cotton socks beneath a heavier wool pair is warmer and more comfortable than a single thick pair.

4. Next, for the mid-layer, try a tightly woven wool shirt that opens down the front and a quilted jacket over it that also opens in the front. This provides both warmth and ventilation. Alternately, a long-sleeved shirt worn tight to the body with a sweater over also works well, and turtlenecks provide added protection and warmth. Pants should be of tightly woven wool, preferably without cuffs, with a lot of room in the seat and legs. If not wool you can wear tights under thick pants. For added ventilation men and boys can use suspenders rather than a belt. A woolen stocking hat or mask-like hat will greatly reduce loss of heat from the head.

5. The outer layer’s sole purpose is to protect against wind, rain and snow.A heavy parka that covers the hips and has a hood with a full-length zipper is best but a heavy, fully lined coat will also do. Make sure the coat is one size larger than you’d normally wear so it is comfortable amongst the other layers of clothing. Remember, when choosing fabrics for your outerwear that while down provides maximum warmth at minimum weight, wool has the important advantage of retaining its warmth even when wet. Lined gloves are absolutely essentials for keeping warm and avoiding things like frost bite.

6. Your feet are farther from your heart than any other part of your body. So when it's cold out, it's very hard for your body to keep them warm. A good pair of boots is therefore essential in frigid winters. Heavy boots with a felt or wool inner liner are warm and comfortable. Make sure the boots you wear have warm interiors, are insulated and are built for traction and cold weather, and make sure they repel the wet weather and snow.


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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.