Cold Weather Effects and Cures

Spring may only be a month away, but many areas of British Columbia as well as other regions across Canada are still experiencing frigid cold temperatures and winter weather, including snow. As a result of the cold weather, you may notice an increase in things like dry or chapped skin, hair loss (due to lack of hydration and humidity) as well as hair that feels coarser or seems to have more static, and loss of dexterity. The cold can also have much more harmful effects on your health, such as causing a decrease in body temperature (which could lead to hypothermia), narrowed blood vessels (putting you at risk of a heart attack), decreased immunity (due to spending more time indoors/around others), and increased risk of fractures or bone breaks (often caused by uncleared snow and ice on walkways.) The good news is there are many things you can try to combat these effects.

The first thing anyone wants to do after being exposed to cold weather is to get back indoors as quickly as possible to warm up. This can be achieved by taking a warm bath or shower, or by brewing a hot cup of tea. Things like heating pads or electric blankets can also be a quick way to warm yourself up, but overuse of these have also been linked to something known as erythema ab igne (also known as EAI), which is a type of permanent blood vessel damage, so be careful when using these items. Some people will turn to caffeine, such as coffee, in effort to boost their energy level as well as warm up, but caffeine is considered a diuretic and can therefore contribute to dry skin, which is also a major problem for some people as the weather gets colder. If you are craving a cup of coffee but aren’t necessarily worried about (or need) the extra energy boost, try switching to decaf.

As for relieving dry skin, moisturizing is something everyone should do on a regular basis, but you should be even more proactive with it during the colder seasons. One way to keep the skin moist is by using a moisturizing product (such as a gel or cream) which can be found at most drug stores or beauty departments. There are a wide array of products and brands available, including ones for people with sensitive skin or those who are prone to redness, as well as acne outbreaks, so when it comes to choosing one that’s best for you it’s all about personal preference. On top of using a moisturizer regularly, I also recommend drinking water. It already has amazing health benefits, but is also a good, natural way to improve the skin, keep it moist, and make it appear more radiant. Skin dryness (such as dry hands or chapped lips) as well as conditions such as eczema can also flare up as a result of cold weather, so finding a hand cream that contains colloidal oatmeal or ceramides can also be helpful, as can using a moisturizing lip balm (or even applying a small amount of petroleum jelly to the lips.) It’s also important to not use too much hand soap, soap that is too harsh, or scrub your skin too vigorously, as these are all things that can aggravate the skin aside from the weather.

If you’re finding that your hair has lost its moisture, is coarser, or seems drier, try to switch up your hair routine until the weather improves and outside air gets warmer. For example, rather than conditioning/rinsing your hair as you normally would following a shampoo, switch to a leave-in conditioner instead. Instead of air-drying or blow drying your hair, leave it but style it into a loose braid. By doing this, the strands of your hair won’t be as exposed to the cold air when you go outdoors and will prevent breakage from occurring.

Because fractures, sprains and breaks are also much more common in the colder winter months, it’s also important to ensure that all walkways are cleared of snow and ice. This will not only prevent you from injuring yourself, but also prevent injury from occurring to any visitors you might have (such as friends, family, or the mail man.)

Originally published at on February 22, 2019.



Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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