How Cold Is Too Cold to Go Outside?

Medically Reviewed on 4/14/2021

Human body is capable of maintaining a steady core temperature between 97°F and 99°F. However, it is essential to layer up in cold weather and wear comfortable clothes in warm weather, so that we stay protected from extremes of temperature. Wearing right clothes for right weather is especially important in case of kids and the elderly.
Human body is capable of maintaining a steady core temperature between 97°F and 99°F. However, it is essential to layer up in cold weather and wear comfortable clothes in warm weather, so that we stay protected from extremes of temperature. Wearing right clothes for right weather is especially important in case of kids and the elderly.

Human body is capable of maintaining a steady core temperature between 97°F and 99°F. However, it is essential to layer up in cold weather and wear comfortable clothes in warm weather, so that we stay protected from extremes of temperature. Wearing right clothes for right weather is especially important in case of kids and the elderly.

Increased caution should be displayed when temperatures fall below 40°F. Now again, the temperature is not the only indicator of how cold you will feel.

  • The wind chill factor is the best indicator of the cold climate while going outside. Research says if the thermometer reads 36°F and if the wind chill says 20°, exposed skin will freeze as if it were 20°. This is a crucial distinction for anyone going outside for more than a few minutes. 
  •  In temperatures 13° to 31°, you must layer up accordingly, especially the hands and the feet and try to get indoor every 20-30 minutes.
  • If the wind chills measure at 13° or lower, you are at a high risk of frostbite, and it is better to move inside the house.
  • The wind chill or “feels like” is that little number often listed next to the actual temperature in the forecast. It takes into account conditions such as wind speed and moisture to calculate the risk of frostbite to your bare skin. 
  • It is important because the wind moves warm air away from your body, and the moisture will further cool your skin, making you cold a lot faster than just the air temperature would suggest. 
  • Hands, nose, toes, and ears are particularly susceptible due to how far away they are from the core of your body (and most of your body heat). This is why it is recommended to stay indoors if the wind chill drops below freezing.
  • In general, when the wind chill is 32° and above, it’s safe to be outside. In temperatures 13° to 31°, indoor breaks should happen every 20-30 minutes. For wind chills of 13° and below, you should move activities indoors and outside of the cold as frostbite can set in very quickly.
  • The phenomenon called the relative humidity in the air can also affect the temperature you actually feel, which is called the “apparent temperature.” If the humidity in the air is zero or nearing zero, you will feel colder at the given temperature.

What is cold infection?

A cold or common cold is a viral infection. It affects the upper respiratory system, which includes nose, mouth, throat, and lungs. The common cold is a self-limited, though a highly contagious disease. The common cold is the most frequently occurring viral infection in the world. It is usually caused by virus group called rhinoviruses, which is contagious. The common cold is spread either by direct contact with infected secretions from contaminated surfaces or by inhaling the airborne virus after individuals sneeze or cough. A few days after the virus sets in, you may experience cold symptoms:

Treatment for cold:

Usually, body defends itself automatically against the virus, and this immune response usually clears up the symptoms within a week or 10 days. There is no cure, but the symptoms may be eased through over the counter medications. It should be noted that antibiotics do not work for common cold as cold is usually causes by the virus. Common treatment therapies or remedies include:

  • Drink plenty of liquids such as soups, Gatorade, warm water, and green tea.
  • Taking over the counter medications such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or ibuprofen according to the label instructions may help relieve fever, headaches, and body aches.
  • Cough syrup often includes antitussive agents, designed to suppress coughing, or expectorants that can loosen mucus in the throat, which may help treat symptoms of cold.
  • Some findings show taking zinc tablets or diet enriched with zinc may buildup stronger immune system to fight cold virus.
  • Nasal steroid spray such as Flonase (fluticasone) along with nasal irrigation such as neti pot helps thin mucus and flush out the congestion. This can be done with a mix of distilled water and salt.
  • Using honey in warm water can help soothe sore, scratchy throats and suppress cold symptoms.
  • Getting sufficient rest is necessary.

Not everyone may require doctor supervision or attention for common cold as it is self-limited contagious disease. However, teens with weak immune system or pre-existing respiratory infections such as asthma or pneumonia may require doctor supervision. A teen may need medical attention if they have below conditions:

  • If cold symptoms last for more than a week or appear at the same time every year or whenever they are exposed to pollen, dust, animals, or some other substance (allergy)
  • Trouble breathing or wheeze during cold (such as asthma)
  • Worsening symptoms 
  • Cough if lasts for more than two to three weeks
  • Inability to keep food or liquids down
  • Increasing headache or facial or throat pain
  • Severe painful sore throat
  • Fever of 103°F (39.3°C) or higher, or a fever of 102°F (38.9°C) that lasts for more than a day
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Swollen glands (lymph nodes)
  • Earache
  • Very young child

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Medically Reviewed on 4/14/2021
References
Cold Weather Safety for Older Adults: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cold-weather-safety-older-adults