Beating the effects of cold weather

Whether you’re hitting the slopes, making snowmen with the kids or riding a bicycle in sub-freezing temperatures, those who subject themselves to harsh winter conditions will eventually start to feel its wrath.

Some of this stuff might seem girly, but all who spend time outdoors in the winter can benefit from these simple tips. As much as some of us like to think winter commuting is about showing off, I’m certain all of us can do without chapped lips, windburned cheeks, cracking skin on our hands and dry, irritated eyes.

  • Use a humidifier

Humidifiers moisturize the air, which is likely being dried out by your home’s heater. This has made the most difference so far the past few winters. My irritated eyes and chapped skin seem to get faster relief with a humidifier. I leave mine running in my bedroom at night.   It’s not an expensive one, it just pulls air through a wet air filter. I’ve had better luck with these than with some of the ultrasonic ones, which seemingly just leave a dew-like residue all over the place.

  • Keep skin exposure to a minimum

Even if it’s not terribly cold outside, a thin pair of gloves helps keep the wind away and the moisture in. The same goes for your ears and face. Earmuffs, a headband, scarf, or balaclava not only keeps the warmth close, it keeps things mosturized.

  • Use sunscreen, lip-balm and eyewear

Even in the dead of winter, UVA and UVB rays can cause harm. Bonus: UV-Blocking lip-balm and eyewear also keep your eyes and lips from getting irritated as quickly due to wind and snow.

  • Vaseline prevents windburned cheeks

This is one I picked up on various discussion boards. A thin layer of vaseline or other petroleum jelly on the face will lock in moisture and prevent some of the effects of wind-chill. If you aren’t one to rock a balaclava, face mask or scarf, this can help a bit.

  • Use a moisturizing lotion

When things get really bad with your hands, use some moisturizing lotion. Use it often, especially after washing your hands. Avoid alcohol-based hand sanitizers like Purell if you’re having trouble keeping your hands from drying out.

  • Use non-medicated eye-drops

If your eyes are swollen and burning after a particularly brutal session in the cold, some non-medicated saline eye-drops should bring quick relief to those peepers.

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0 thoughts on “Beating the effects of cold weather”

  1. Steven says:

    Great tips. One other one that I will throw in – When you get to work, resist the urge to take a long, hot shower.

    The hot water takes a lot of moisture out of your skin. I was having dry skin problems, and taking a shorter, cooler shower helped a lot. You don’t need to take a cold or tepid shower, just not scalding hot.

  2. Scott R says:

    I used to despise a ski mask/balaclava. Now I can’t recommend them enough. I carry two: one warm one made of fleece, and another thin once made of polypro. The fleece one is really warm for those extra cold days.

    You can wear one just over the head and pulled down over the ears and back of neck. If the top of your head is cold, then put the second one on like a cap.

    If it’s cold, pull it down (for me that’s at 20 degrees), but situate the hole so that mouth and nose are exposed.

    If it’s really cold (10 degrees), cover the mouth. Change the pucker of your lips to let warm exhaled air warm your cheeks. It makes a huge difference.

    I concur about taking care of the bad hands. I use Eucerin cream to avoid the cracked, split open (and painful!) fingers and knuckles. You can treat bad hands by slathering up your hands and then putting on some gloves for a while, even overnight.

  3. all-weather-Heather says:

    These are excellent tips. Another, which may sound obvious but for me it wasn’t at first is …check the wind speed & direction & temperature before your trip.

    I found I was getting wind burn on my face even in 40+ degree weather. Although its not the coldest weather I’d ridden in, it was cold enough that my exposed skin was getting wind burn. Now I just put a heavy moisturizer on my face no matter what the temperature & I wear my baclava as I need it.

    On the windiest days I wear my ski goggles. Against wind they provide much better protection than my biking glasses.

    Enjoy the winter. Its beautiful outside.

  4. Johnny says:

    While they take some getting used to, neti pots help with snot trouble in the winter. They are usual, but folks who bike all winter are probably adventurous enough to try them:)

  5. JiMCi says:

    Not much details how to cope with the cold, but this guy here shows us all that riding in the winter – from Vancouver to Montreal – is possible!

  6. Dingbat says:

    Another thing that gets dry may be your sinuses (or they may not, if they get drippy!). But I’ve found a plain, unmedicated saline nasal spray very effective for keeping my nose happy. And also, when I have a cold, for keeping the sinuses flushed out and mitigating the nastiness of postnasal drip.

  7. Shiny Flu says:

    Blistex (or any other lip balm). I tend to have the problem year round be it just walking or on the bike, but obviously winter’s cold air makes it worse.

    A few of my co-workers were making fun of my ‘lip-stick’ application (although Blistex doesn’t look like lipstick!), but I’m pretty sure that the better half appreciates it 😉

  8. Jewell says:

    Girly? naw, it’s just taking care of your body.

  9. BiggerDummy says:

    Use a ski helmet or snowboarding helmet. Much warmer. Ski goggles are great too

  10. Tom Bowden says:

    You’re a couple of my favorite tips:

    1. Layers!
    2. Sport Hill Tights! Wear your cycling shorts underneath – that way you get the next layer and you don’t have to give up your padded seat.
    3. Cheap fleece gloves from Wal-Mart! Best $5 I’ve ever spent! Also, the one dollar headband and the $3 next gaiter
    4. Don’t overdress!

  11. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    This morning it was somewhere close to -20f for my ride to the bus stop in downtown Minneapolis, two miles away… There are bus stops closer, but what fun is that as I would walk three blocks, wait, ride bus, get off and wait for the bus that goes to where I work.

    My clothes: big-box-store insulated hiking boots w/ large toe-clips, one pair of thick wool sock and chemical toe warmers, snow pants over wicking tights. long sleeve wicking shirt with a light jacket (wind proof), face mask and fleece head band with goggles, an insulated helmet and wool glove liners inside four finger mitts with outer shells along with two packs of chemical toe warmers (one for my four fingers and the other for my thumb). It wasn’t that bad. I would have road to the other end of the city, but the stop I go to only has a few busses pass and that makes it easier to get on the right one as sometimes they forget to change route numbers.

    I would have road the whole 8 miles away from the city, but if anything happened to my bike I would have been in trouble at that temperature.

  12. Alfred says:

    Be very careful of ice in your control cable housings. If they freeze, best case scenario is that you’re stuck in one gear until you can thaw out. Worst case is that you will lose your brakes. Here in Fairbanks Alaska, it gets cold enough to stiffen grease also (leading to the same control cable problems) but i’m going to do some experimenting this winter (i’m thinking graphite) while i’m cruising on my shiny new nokian studs.

  13. Alfred says:

    Keep an eye on your lights! Commuting in the winter probably means riding in the dark. Batteries do not like the cold and will not hold a charge as long when it’s below freezing (or below zero). New technology batteries, such as NiMH and Lithium Ion cells, cope better with the cold than alkaline, lead acid, or NiCads.

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