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Dress for (Outdoor) Success - What to wear for work or play in winter weather

StoneSprings Hospital Center February 10, 2017

Dressing for the forecast and your level of activity requires more than piling on layers. The right clothes and outerwear can make a world of difference in keeping you comfortable, even for long hours outdoors.

Know the forecast
Winter temps can change drastically throughout a day and wind can make conditions feel much colder. If you work outdoors or plan to be out, understand the forecast, plan ahead, and bring the right layers.

Layer up!
Layers of clothing trap air between the skin and fabric, providing great insulation. They also let you adjust if temps warm or the wind picks up.

  • Base layer: Think thin for your first layer. Thermal underwear made from silk or synthetic fabrics (including blends of polyester, nylon, spandex and lycra) wicks moisture away, retains heat, and is comfortable against the skin.
  • Middle layer: This is your insulating layer or layers. Wool and fleece are good options but don’t just think about the top of you – it’s important to layer on your legs as well.
  • Outer layer: This layer is your protection against water and wind. Jackets and pants should be made of waterproof materials or given a coat of waterproofing spray. Look for coats with collars, cuffs and a hood – and also ventilation zippers to let out moisture or heat while you are active. For kids in the snow, bib-type snow pants with elastic cuffs to keep out the snow are a good choice.

Check your tags

  • While down is an excellent insulator in dry conditions, it’s virtually useless if it gets wet.
  • Cotton, often a favorite material for soft flannels and thick socks, is not good for outdoor activity. It doesn’t insulate well, and when damp or wet, causes a rapid loss of body heat.

Dress for your activity

  • Sedentary, like watching a football game or hunting:
    Thickly insulate your core and consider sitting or standing on cardboard, a pad or blankets to avoid conductive heat loss. Consider hand and feet warmers or warming socks.
  • Active, including sports, shoveling or construction:
    Focus more on covering extremities and less on insulating your core to prevent overheating and excessive sweating. Your base layer, being breathable and moisture-wicking, is critical.
  • Mixed, like sledding, skiing or snowboarding:
    When mixing periods of exertion and rest, layers are important. Shed a layer or zip-open vents to let out excess heat when you’re active, then pull up hoods and add a scarf to protect your face.

Head out
Have you heard that most of your body heat escapes through your head? It’s a myth! The truth is that while many people wouldn’t dream of stepping out in the snow without a jacket, they often leave their heads and necks uncovered. To stay warm, plan for a hat and a scarf. Add sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun and light reflecting off of snow.

Tip to toes
Cold hands and feet can spell a quick end to winter activities. Fashion gloves and boots are simply not made or sized for cold weather. Outdoor activity boots should be a size or two larger to accommodate two pairs of socks (one thin polyester sock against the skin and a thicker wool sock over that) and gloves should fit with glove liners.

Health check yourself and others
Fun activities, or long hours on the job, might keep you out longer than is comfortable. Look for signs of cold-induced illness and injury in yourself and others. Symptoms worthy of a trip to the ER include: Skin that becomes hard and numb and looks pale or waxy-white in color, extreme fatigue or drowsiness, uncontrolled shivering, cool bluish skin, slurred speech, clumsy movements or irritable, irrational or confused behavior.

It’s not fun to think about accidents and illness, but knowing where to go in an emergency is important. At StoneSprings Hospital Center, our expert emergency department is ready with advanced care 24 hours a day. Our team of board-certified physicians, nurses and clinical staff is specially trained and equipped to care for all types of emergencies. When minutes matter, choose StoneSprings Hospital Center ER.

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