Winter Weather/Extreme Cold Facts Sheet
PUBLIC HEALTH RESOUCES AND INFORMATION FACT SHEET
Preparing for Winter Weather/Extreme Cold
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is encouraging awareness of winter weather and extreme cold as fall transitions into the winter holiday season.
What is the Winter Weather/Extreme Cold?
The definition of extreme cold can vary. After all, what is cold to one person may not feel that cold to another. People who live in regions with relatively few days of freezing temperatures are not accustomed to them when they go to colder areas.
Whenever temperatures drop below what feels lower than normal to you—and as wind speed increases—heat can leave your body more rapidly and leave you at risk of health problems.
Extremely cold temperatures are often accompanied by winter storms, so in addition to the risks of cold, you may also have to cope with power failures and icy roads. Staying indoors as much as possible can reduce the risks of car crashes and falls on the ice, but you may also face indoor hazards. Many homes will be too cold—either due to a power failure or because the heating system isn’t adequate for the weather. When people must use space heaters and fireplaces to stay warm, the risk of household fires increases, as well as the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
What is Wind Chill Temperature?
The wind chill temperature is how cold people and animals feel when outside. Wind chill is base on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by wind and cold. As the wind increases, it draws heat from the body, driving down skin temperatures and eventually the internal body temperature. Therefore, the wind makes it FEEL much colder. If the temperature is 0˚F and the wind is blowing at 15mph, the wind chill is -19˚F. At this wind chill temperature, exposed skin can freeze in 30 minutes.
What is the National Weather Services (NWS) Wind Chill Temperature Index (WCT)?
The NWS WCT Index uses advances in science, technology, and computer modeling to provide and accurate, understandable, and useful formula for calculating the dangers from winter winds and freezing temperatures.
Health Effects of Winter Weather/Extreme Cold
Winter Weather/Extreme Cold increase the risk for a diverse range of health risks:
- The most common cold-related problems are hypothermia and frostbite.
- Cold weather acts as a vasoconstrictor, which means it narrows blood vessels. This raise the risk of heart attack.
- Icy sidewalks can make falling easier, putting you at risk for fractures.
- During winter months, people spend more time inside and in close contact with each other, such as in stores, malls, and restaurants. This means that colds, the flu, COVID-19, and other viruses are more easily spread.
- Dry winter air can suck the moisture from your skin.
- Older adults are at risk for hypothermia, in which the body’s internal temperature falls too low.