With winter temperatures in Rhode Island and Massachusetts often dipping below freezing, it’s critical to plan ahead for outdoor winter workouts and determine whether or not it's safe to be outdoors. Our athletic trainers share the best ways to stay warm and keep safe if you’re planning on training outside this winter and how to treat symptoms for the most common cold-related injuries.
Avoiding the Common Cold-Related Injuries
One of the most common injuries related to the cold is chilblain, nonfreezing tissue that typically occurs with extended exposure to cold, wet conditions. Symptoms include the appearance of small red bumps, swelling, tenderness, itching, and pain in an exposed area of the skin. If you’re experiencing this injury, remove any wet and restrictive clothing to gently wash and dry the area. Elevate and cover the area with warm, loose clothing or blankets as to not irritate the skin further.
If there is exposed skin, there is always a risk for frostbite, a freezing of the body tissues. Symptoms for a minor case involve swelling, redness, or a grey skin appearance, typically with a stiff feeling or momentary tingling or burning sensation. More serious cases involve edema to the area, as well as mottled grey skin with hard tissue. Blisters and numbness can also develop in those cases. If you think you have frostbite, contact your healthcare team to determine the next steps, as rewarming becomes a painful process. They may advise immersing the area in a warm bath of circulating water for 15-30 minutes and rewarming with water not exceeding 98 degrees. When color and sensation has returned, thawing is typically complete. However, since frostbite can be serious, it is always best to contact your healthcare team to determine your individual treatment process.
When exposed to a prolonged period of freezing and wet weather, hypothermia may develop, lowering the body’s core temperature to 95 degrees. Mild cases involve vigorous shivering, an increase in blood pressure, a decrease in fine motor skills, lethargy, apathy, and mild amnesia. Moderate to severe symptoms involve depressed vital signs, impaired mental functions, slurred speech, gross motor skill impairment, and unconsciousness. This is a serious condition that must be treated by a healthcare professional. If you or another person is suspected to have hypothermia, immediately call 911. Until the professionals arrive at the scene, remove the person from the elements and apply heat only to the trunk or heat transfer areas of the body like armpits, chest, and groin.
Tips For Staying Safe & Warm During Winter Workouts
1. Wear insulated clothing that allows moisture to be evaporated or removed from the skin
2. Dress in layers
3. Use external heaters like hand warmers
4. Take indoor breaks to warm up
5. Stay hydrated
6. Prepare extra shoes, socks, and gloves to switch if wet
7. Check the Wind Chill Chart to see how much time you can spend outside safely
To learn more about how to adjust your training to accommodate winter temperatures, consult a physical therapist. Performance Physical Therapy has many clinics across Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts that can help you move better and safer in the winter months. Call 401.726.7100 to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist.