Winter is here. . . and so is the cold and snow that can be harmful to those of us who work outdoors with livestock. "Bundle up, dress in layers, put on your hat" are familiar sounds to many children who grew up in cold weather climates. But, those wise words apply to people of all ages.

While exposure to extreme cold weather can cause frostbite, which is when tissues freeze, there are milder conditions such as frostnip, chilblains (pernio), and trench foot. Symptoms of some of these include tingling sensations, itching, pain, reddened, swollen, and numbness of the feet.

The key is to keep your body protected in cold weather. Those most susceptible are the elderly, very young, those with diabetes, hunters, and those who spend a great deal of time outdoors. Listed below are some helpful suggestions to make your holiday season a bit warmer:
  • Dress for weather – don't play the "I can handle the cold weather" card.
  • Layers and mittens – multiple layers, and when mitten are an option for the work being done, consider them. They keep your fingers together which keeps them warmer.
  • Wear two pairs of socks – recommended that the inner layer be made of synthetic fiber (polypropylene) to keep water away from the skin and the outer layer be made of wool for increased insulation.
  • Waterproof shoes – in our cases, boots.
  • Cover your head, face, nose, and ears at all times.
  • Clothes should fit loosely to avoid a decrease in blood flow to the arms and legs.
  • If traveling to a remote area of the farm, consider taking along another person if help is needed.
When the weather is wet and windy, Mother Nature can fool you. With the wind chill, it is colder than what the temperature gauge or weatherman predicts. If your conditions are severe, and frostbite occurs, call for help, move to a warm area to prevent further heat loss, remove all wet clothing and restrictive jewelry, and provide warm, nonalcoholic, noncaffeinated fluids to drink.

So, bundle up, dress in layers, put on your hat, and try to stay warm during this holiday season, even if it means wearing that funny hat with the fuzz around the ears to the milking barn. The cows won't care what's on your head, as long as your hands are warm!