Sometimes, it isn’t just cold weather that can be dangerous. When temperatures plummet, wind chill can threaten your health and safety if you don’t take the right precautions. But what is wind chill, specifically, and how does it work?
What is Wind Chill?
According to the National Weather Service, the definition of wind chill is “a term used to describe what the air temperature feels like to the human skin due to the combination of cold temperatures and winds blowing on exposed skin.”
In other words, the colder the outside temperature and the higher the wind speed, the colder wind chill feels. (Did you know that even if the outside temperature stays the same, it will still feel colder to you if wind speed increases?)
How Does Wind Chill Work?
Let’s break it down a bit. Professionals at NOAA say that when wind speeds pick up, heat is removed from your body faster. This decreases skin temperature first, followed by internal body temperature.
The lower the wind chill temperature, the higher your chances of developing frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite happens when body tissue freezes; extremities like fingers, toes, the tip of your nose, and ear lobes are most at risk. On the other hand, hypothermia happens when your core body temperature falls at or below 95°F, or 35°C (it is normally 98.6°F, or 37°C).
How Can You Protect Yourself from Wind Chill?
There are lots of ways you can protect yourself from wind chill, including the following, courtesy of NOAA. First, stay dry, and wear insulated boots when going outside. Avoid getting wet, or you run the risk of losing heat faster than if you were dry. Dress in layers, wear a warm hat, and cover as much of your body as possible when outside (mittens are better than gloves). Consider carrying a portable NOAA weather radio when outside (or keep it somewhere handy).
To help avoid hypothermia, dress in layers when outside (this includes a hat, mittens, and warm clothes). When inside, avoid breezes and drafts. Drink warm beverages and eat hot food. If you live by yourself, ask a neighbor, family member, or friend to check in with you daily.
To help avoid frostbite, avoid going outside if the wind chill is below -50°F (-46°C). If you have to go out, dress in layers (hat, mittens, warm clothes), and make sure you try covering your toes, fingers, ears, and nose. Stay dry and try avoiding the wind. Drink lots of fluids (good hydration increases blood volume, which can help prevent frostbite), but avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. This is because alcohol can reduce shivering, which is your body’s way of keeping you warm. Similarly, caffeine tightens blood vessels, which can prevent your extremities from staying warm. Likewise, nicotine shuts off blood flow to your hands.
If your temperature dips to 95°F (35°C) or less, you can’t think clearly, or you feel sluggish and cold, go to your doctor or the ER as soon as possible.
Wind Chill and Cold Weather: True or False?
Let’s debunk some common wind chill and cold weather myths, courtesy of NOAA.
True or false: Cold air can cause a cold.
Answer: False. Simply going outside during cold weather with a coat doesn’t directly increase your chance of getting a cold. There might be other factors at play.
True or false: You only need sunscreen in the summer.
Answer: False. Solar radiation, while less direct in the winter, can still cause skin damage. Additionally, snow cover reflects skin-damaging radiation.
True or false: Most of the body’s heat loss is through the head.
Answer: False. The surface area of the head makes up about 7% of total body coverage. No matter what part of the body is exposed, it loses heat in proportion to exposure. This means your head loses heat at roughly the same rate as any other 7% of the body exposed in the cold.
True or false: There are four degrees of frostbite.
Answer: True. In the first degree, called “frostnip,” the skin’s surface is frozen. In the second degree, blisters can form in a day or two, and skin can roughen and harden. In the third degree, muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and tendons can freeze. And in the fourth degree, skin might become blue or black, pain can last for multiple hours, and gangrene may occur, requiring amputation of extremities if necessary.
SERVPRO’s Construction Services
In the cold months of winter, wind chill can be extremely dangerous. SERVPRO’s construction services can handle the job from pre-construction to post-construction. Whether severe snow or other catastrophic weather has damaged a small portion of your property or something larger, technicians are equipped to clean up and rebuild everything from single rooms to entire floors.
If you wish to take proactive measures to protect your house, or in case you decide to travel to warmer weather during winter, consider contacting SERVPRO® for board-up services. This can help protect against additional damage from severe weather like a snowstorm or blizzard, and also help protect against wild animals, graffiti, illegal entry, and theft.
If snow or an ice dam harms your roof, SERVPRO also offers roof tarping services. This service is useful for keeping your home or business secure until the roof can be inspected and repaired.
Available 24/7, SERVPRO is Here to Help®
Wind chill can be deadly, and severe winter weather can cause ice dams, roof damage from snow, storm damage, and more. Knowing how to protect yourself, family, pets, employees, and more is crucial. Reach out to your local SERVPRO for 24/7 cleanup, restoration, and construction services. With 2210 locations in the United States and Canada, there is a franchise nearby, ready to assist with a wide variety of services. Backed by over five decades of experience, and arriving to each job with elite equipment and extensive knowledge, SERVPRO franchises are trained to handle water damage cleanup, fire damage cleanup, mold remediation, deodorization, HVAC and air duct cleaning, document restoration, and much more. SERVPRO is always here to help and looks forward to helping return your property to pre-loss condition.