Some 70 years later, wind chill has become a common term in our everyday conversation. Knowing the factors help people protect themselves against frostbite and hypothermia. Tissue damage occurs in frostbite when wind chill temperatures fall below -25 degrees F. Hypother?mia results when the rapid loss of the body?s internal temperature alters judgment. This sometimes results in death.
Western Kansas stockmen know the harder the wind blows, the lower the wind chill factor. Simply put, it is the relationship between wind speed and actual temperature that produces this chilling effect.
People who spend time outdoors during these cold periods?stockmen, construction workers, hunters, runners and skiers?may create their own winds or increase the existing wind. Because movement magnifies airflow, they should be especially cautious of wind chill.
Manual labor and other physical exertion can also cause heat loss. Sweat begins and heat is removed by vaporization. Breathing cold air also results in the loss of heat from the lungs.
Few people realize that smoking, drinking, prescription drugs and illegal narcotics may also contribute to frostbite or hypo?thermia during bitterly cold temperatures. All of these dull the senses.
Alcohol dilates the capillaries of the skin and that increases the body?s heat loss. Nicotine smoke absorbed by the blood causes the capillaries to constrict. This restricts the blood flow to the earlobes, fingertips and other regions of the body. Medication can have side effects, too, so venture outside during cold weather with extreme caution.
Wind-chill charts for regular references are available wherever outdoor equipment is sold. Use these charts only as a point of information. Wind-chill charts aren?t always accurate because they don?t take into account all the possibilities of heat loss, or the preventive measures against it.
Air temperature is rarely a reliable indicator of how cold a person will feel outdoors. Elements such as wind speed, relative humidity and sunshine or solar radiation also play a part. A person?s health and the type of clothing worn will also affect how a person feels.
When you go outside, dress for the weather and the wind. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers. These layers can be removed to prevent perspiration and subsequent chilling. Snug mittens are better protection than fitted gloves.
Always wear a hat, preferably wool, ear protection and a scarf or neck gaiter. If it?s bitter cold?stay inside.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.