A blog by runners. For runners.

Winter running safety

running-int-he-cold-winter-safetyI’m not going to lie – when the temperature (or temperature plus wind chill) drops below 25 degrees Fahrenheit, I head for the treadmill. Still, cold weather health problems can strike when the air temperature is much warmer. Knowing the signs of hypothermia and frostbite can help us stay safe during winter workouts.

Winter health threats
Here are the basics on serious cold weather running issues and how to prevent them:

  • Frostnip and frostbite are the freezing of the body’s tissue. It’s most likely to occur on exposed skin, including the fingers, cheeks, ears, and nose but it can also affect the toes and feet. Your skin may appear white and waxy. Frostnip can be easily treated, though – just apply a warm compress to the affected area. Frostbite is a deeper freezing of the tissue. You’ll need to seek prompt medical attention to keep the area from becoming permanently damaged.
  • Hypothermia is the dangerous cooling of the body’s temperature. Severe hypothermia can be life-threatening. It’s most likely to occur when the outdoor temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and in rainy or windy conditions. Symptoms of hypothermia include intense shivering, slurred speech, and loss of coordination. Most healthy people with mild hypothermia recover quickly with at-home treatments. If you have symptoms of hypothermia, get out of the cold, change into warm clothes, warm up by using blankets and heaters, and drink a hot beverage. If someone is shivering violently, stumbling, and cannot respond to questions, get medical care at once – moderate to severe hypothermia usually needs to be treated in the hospital.
  • Dehydration. You may not feel thirsty when exercising in cold weather, but you still need to drink plenty of water. Thirst is not always a good indicator of hydration. You sweat a lot during cold weather activity, too – sweat just evaporates more quickly than it does in warm weather — so drink enough fluids before, during, and after each run to stay hydrated.

Is it ever “too cold” to exercise outdoors?
There is no set temperature that means it’s too cold to exercise outside. This is because rain, sleet, snow, and the wind chill factor can make the outside air feel even colder than it really is. Plus, the “too cold” threshold for comfort varies from person to person. For example, if you live in Florida, you probably won’t handle exercising in 30 degree weather as well as someone from Michigan.

Also, if you have certain medical problems –like asthma, heart issues, or Raynaud’s syndrome – it’s a good idea to ask your doctor about any special safety measures you should to take when working out in the cold.

According to experts, being out in the cold gets dangerous when the temperature alone or temperature plus wind chill dips to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below. But hypothermia and frostbite can happen when the temperature is much warmer than that, so it’s important to take proper precautions. Learn more about how to dress for cold weather workouts.

Written by Jen Matz.

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