Effects of the Extreme Cold on the Human Body

Living in a cold climate like Alaska can do more damage to your body than you realize. Some areas can be well under 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. Before you visit or live in an unusually cold climate, know the effects cold temperatures can have on your body and mind.

Your Outer Layer

Cold Alaskan weather can wreak havoc on the body’s largest organ, the skin. Cold weather, particularly on windy days, can seep moisture from the body and leave skin cracked, dry, and irritated. Be sure to apply a generous amount of moisturizer before going outside, and don’t forget sunscreen; just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean the sun’s harmful rays can’t do damage. Frostbite in Alaska is also an unfortunately common condition. A person simply grabbing a frozen car door handle can receive mild frostbite injuries due to the harsh cold. While most people assume that frostbite can only be suffered in events of long exposure in harsh elements, the reality is that frostbite can be achieved simply by being outdoors with exposed skin for just a few minutes. Wearing protective clothing over sensitive body parts, like the face, nose, hands, ears, and feet helps to make living in Alaska more bearable.

The Inner You

Depression is common in cold climates as well. Since Alaska is very dark all winter long, so-called ‘cabin fever’ is common among the individuals who live there. An eery trapped-in feeling often occurs, keeping people indoors and poorly motivated to engage in activities or interests.  Fatigue often sets in. Many people living in Alaska use sun lamps to keep their bodies and minds in a positive state, even as the temperatures drop to sub-zero.

Know What You’re Up Against

Alaskan winters are known to be deceiving to novice individuals who live there. Since wind rarely blows in many parts of the state, the bitter cold is often not felt right away. Always check the thermometer to see exactly how cold it is outdoors before venturing out into the Alaskan sunshine in the winter, as it will feel cold within a few minutes. Dress for below zero temperatures, even if the sun is shining on your sunscreen-covered face. Many people fall victim to Alaska’s nasty weather simply because they do not believe the cold temperatures that exist.

Alaska is a frontier of dreadfully cold winters and mild summers, so knowing how to withstand the harsh winter climate is key to healthy survival and thriving while living there. From the dark winter gloom to the extreme temperature drops, it’s important to realize just how harsh living in Alaska can be, and know how to prepare for the extreme cold that is common of the state.

About the Guest Author

Peg Lewis is a public health educator who has enjoys vacationing in every climate, even extreme cold ones.  She writes about health issues facing our communities today at Resource Guide for Public Health Professionals.

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