Why Does Cold Weather Feel Warm?

BANGOR, ME (WABI)- It's hard to find anyone not happy about Monday's warmer temperatures.

Of course, 20 degrees doesn't sound warm, but compared to negative numbers, it certainly feels a whole lot nicer.

Joy Hollowell takes a closer look at how our bodies react to such extreme changes in temperatures.
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Celebrating the change in cold. Seems rather strange considering we're still taking below freezing temperatures. So why does it feel so much warmer outside?

"Our bodies have a way of adapting to any kind of weather that we're in," says Kim Files, Family Nurse Practitioner at Broadway Family Medicine for St. Joseph Hospital. "So you're going to feel warm when you're used to being cold. Your vessels have constricted, your layering up, so it's not so much of a shock."

Files says when it's brutally cold, blood shunts to the core of our body, protecting our major organs.

"So we're constantly adapting, our vessels are dilating and constricting, we're taking things off, we're putting them back on just to compensate," Files explains."

And when those temperatures do have a negative sign in front of them, it's not just our minds telling us it's painful to go outside.

"No, it is true because the human body adapts to extreme sub temperatures by several internal mechanisms," explains Dr. Mamatha Sirivol, Family Physician at EMMC Hampden Clinic. "And any stresses from outside do change some mechanisms in the body."

Dr. Sirivol says keeping our core body temperature in check is vital even when we do have this January thaw. Anything below 95 degrees is considered hypothermia.

"That's a major change to the body to adapt to," says Sirivol. "All the systems begin to shut down at that temperature."

Sirivol says preparing for the unexpected is unfortunately the norm this winter. After all, just because the thermometer reads a balmy 20 degrees right now-

"Doesn't mean it's going to stay that way," Sirivol says with a smile.
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Both Sirivol and Files warn that the elderly and small children are particiularly vulnerable to extreme cold. Elderly people have a harder time adapting their bodies to extreme temperatures changes. And children, especially infants, do not show all the signs of hypothermia. Dr. Sirivol says if you see cold, red skin and if you see a child fatigued and not behaving like their usual self, it's a very important sign of hypothermia.

Files says they are seeing cases of hypothermia as well as frostbite at St. Joe's Emergency Room this winter.

And mythbusters alert- according to Files, we do NOT lose most of our body heat through our heads. Only about 7%. That's why it's important to keep all parts of our bodies covered when the weather turns cold.