What are the effects of snowfall on human skin
Last Updated on February 7, 2020 by Ephraim Iyodo
Effects of snowfall on the human skin
When snow falls, the relative humidity in the air usually decreases and the atmosphere becomes drier. This causes a change in the epidermis as an effect of dehydration. We can notice it in our face, with deeper lines and flaking of the skin. We also notice itching in acral areas, such as the extremities (legs and arms) and particularly the hands and feet.Cold temperatures reduce the skin’s horny layer and the visible effects are similar to having dry skin. This is due to the fact that we lose cells more easily, which causes abrasions and inflammation from inclement weather. This is also usually a time when we drink fewer liquids, due to a reduced sensation of thirst and this causes a decrease in cellular hydration. This could also lead to illnesses such as dermatitis caused by scratching the skin when it itches and could cause skin damages like.
- “Frostnip” usually affects skin on the face, ears, or fingertips. Frostnip may cause numbness or blue-white skin color for a short time, but normal feeling and color return quickly when you get warm. No permanent tissue damage occurs.
- Frostbite is freezing of the skin and the tissues under the skin because of temperatures below freezing. Frostbitten skin looks pale or blue and feels cold, numb, and stiff or rubbery to the touch.
- Cold injuries, such as trench foot or chilblains, may cause pale and blistered skin like frostbite after the skin has warmed. These injuries occur from spending too much time in cold, but not freezing, temperatures. The skin does not actually freeze.
- Eye pain or vision changes caused by cold exposure most often occur in individuals who try to force their eyes open in high winds, cold weather, or during activities such as snowmobiling or cross-country skiing. Snow blindness is not directly caused by cold temperatures but does occur in snow conditions. Sunlight reflecting off the snow can cause a corneal injury or burn. Eyelids may become red and swollen. Eyes may feel dry and as though they have sand in them.
- An abnormally low body temperature (hypothermia) occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can make heat. (There may be other reasons a person has a low body temperature. For more information, see the topic Body Temperature.) Early symptoms of hypothermia include shivering in adults and older children; clumsy movements; apathy (lack of concern); poor judgment; and cold, pale, or blue-gray skin. Hypothermia is an emergency condition—it can quickly lead to unconsciousness and death if the heat loss is not stopped.
- Uncovered skin and the extremities, like the hands, feet, nose, cheeks and ears, are most prone to frostbite. You may be experiencing frostbite if any pain or prickling you feel is progressing to numbness, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Your skin will begin to appear pale and hard with a waxy appearance. Other symptoms include: a burning sensation and swelling that could last for weeks, blisters and black scab-like crusts that develop weeks after exposure to extreme cold. Once your skin is re-warmed, your skin will appear flushed from blood rushing back to the frozen area.
What snowfall does to the body
In extreme cold, your body pushes more blood into the core to keep your heart and lungs warm in order to prevent hypothermia, which is when your body’s temperature decreases, not just your skin. But the lack of circulation and blood in your extremities is what causes them to freeze—quite literally. It’s possible for ice crystals to form around and within cells.
Hypothermia sets in once your body’s temperature drops below 96 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the weather service. This is much more severe and can be deadly. Extreme cold can make your body lose heat more quickly than it can produce heat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can happen even at warmer temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, especially if you are wet from sweat, rain or being in cold water.
When hypothermia occurs, the most obvious sign is body temperature. In adults, other symptoms are shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss and slurred speech. If this happens, the CDC recommends getting medical attention immediately, and if that’s not possible, move somewhere warmer, remove wet clothing and warm up the center of the body first.