January 16, 2021

What should I know about how this cold wave affects my health?

It may interest you: ‘What is hypothermia and how to prevent it?’

After Filomena’s scourge and with the drop in temperatures increases the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases if we do not act correctly.

Expectations have been exceeded. Nobody expected that Filomena’s passage through Spain would leave several cities, roads … flooded with snow. the storm brings with it other less visible consequences for which we must be prepared.


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The experts’ forecast is that the thermometers will continue to plummet for the next few days. Mercury will be set to negative and it is important to know the best way we should protect ourselves from that extreme cold to prevent our health from suffering.

The experts of the Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology point out that older people are the most exposed to the ravages of low temperatures.

Aging alters the thermoregulation mechanisms and this causes new pathologies, in addition to worsening existing ones. Especially the related to the circulatory system, such as angina pectoris, and all those that have to do with respiratory system.

Also, as the cold increases blood circulates thicker favoring the appearance of myocardial or cerebral infarcts.

To avoid this, in addition to not being exposed to the cold for an excessive time, the experts point out two recommendations:
– A diet that favors the production of calorific energy through foods such as rice, legumes and pasta, as well as proteins such as meat and oily fish.
Maintain physical activity indoors as a source of heat generation.

Newborns and people with chronic diseases are also among the risk groups.

If you are part of any of these population segments, you should take even more precautions.

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The risks that threaten us all

The extreme cold that we will experience has two direct effects on our body that affect all population groups equally, although with different intensity: frostbite and hypothermia.

In case of superficial frostbite we will observe symptoms such as redness of the skin and we will feel tingling and an itchy or burning sensation mainly in areas such as the cheeks or ears.

Deep freezing directly affects muscles and bones and can lead to ulcers or gangrene. These will change to a paler color if you go to that extreme.

On the other hand, hypothermia It is a process in which our body loses more heat than it is capable of generating as a result of long exposure to cold. Our temperature, which should be around 36.5 / 37 degrees Celsius, is below 35ºC and that’s where the problems begin.

The most obvious symptoms are confusion, loss of coordination, and decreased breathing rate.

If we are hypothermic, a popular belief will make us rub the cold areas of our body. Error. Doing so will cause forced vasodilation that will only make the situation worse.

To return our body to its correct temperature we must apply dry heat to the chest, groin and armpits.

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Where do we lose heat?

“The heat is going through the head!” It is one of the most repeated comments on these days of extreme cold, but do we really lose most of our body heat from the highest part of our body?

Heat loss depends on blood circulation and the head is not one of the places where we have the most blood vessels. What’s more, we could say that in the case of our head the sensation of cooling is greater than what it actually supposes for our body.

The explanation is that our head and our neck have a greater number of nerve cells than other parts of the body, and therefore are more sensitive to changes in temperature. But this does not mean or cause us to lose more heat through the head if it is not covered when the mercury reflects extreme temperatures.

This is confirmed by the research by Rachel Vreeman and Aaron Carroll of Indiana University (United States) published in the British Medical Journal.

A good hat will help us to keep the thermal sensation constant.

But to avoid the effects of low temperatures the important thing is that we must have the parts that are less irrigated well covered, such as the hands or feet.

These are the distal areas, that is, they are farthest from the center of the body, and that is why they are the ones that are most affected by the cold.

We must protect them correctly to prevent our temperature from falling due to their repeated exposure to cold, even if they do not occupy a large amount of body surface.

What diseases will the cold wave bring

Recent studies carried out in the United Kingdom indicate that for every degree that the temperature drops from 18ºC, the number of deaths increases by more than one percent.

Colds and flus, heart attacks and strokes are the most common causes of a cold snap like the one we are going through in Spain.

From the World Health Organization they warn that this situation may “increase the risk of raising our blood pressure and from suffering heart attacks and strokes ”.

And a warning for adults and young people: as with the elderly, no one is left out of being able to suffer episodes of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Anyone can be affected by low temperatures of the next few days.

Deaths as a result of the extreme cold after the Filomena pass will be caused by coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular accidents, respiratory complications and hypothermia.

The risk of heart attack increases with cold by 20% And it does so as a consequence of a specific mechanism in our body, known as vasoconstriction, which is activated to conserve heat.

With this process, the blood vessels contract, increasing the chances of obstruction, and consequently those of experiencing cardiac arrest.

Age, obesity and smoking are factors that increase the options of suffering a myocardial infarction in these cold times.

We must also protect ourselves to avoid that the cold wave affects our immune system since it is now when our defenses will be lower, being able to open the doors to the entry of a virus.

We know that Covid-19 or flu become more aggressive with low temperatures, and therefore now we must take extreme precautions.

The masks and the social distance to which we are subjected at this time of pandemic will be an extra help and will be a great barrier to them.

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