Good Question: Which Is Worse For You: Cold Or Heat?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On a day that felt as hot as it gets, a day where flop sweat was as common as shirtless male joggers, we wondered about the Minnesota extremes.

After all, Wednesday’s high temperature of 97 degrees is 113 degrees away from the low so far in 2011, which was -16 degrees on Jan. 21.

So, which is harder on the body: extreme heat or extreme cold?

“It’s a good question,” said Dr. Thomas Hellmich, an emergency room physician at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. “In general, you tolerate better extremes in cold. Your core temperature can tolerate going down more than going up.”

He pointed out that someone who falls through the ice can survive for hours, even with their core temperature dropping 20 degrees.

“If it goes up even 10 degrees, that’s gonna be really hard on your brain. Where if it goes down, it can actually be protective — in some situations,” he said.

Hellmich said he sees more children in the hospital with problems related to high temperatures than he does in the extreme cold.

“People are at higher risk with temps they’re not used to and their body hasn’t adapted to,” he explained. “In Minnesota we’re not used to this.”

Warm weather can cause heat stroke, but dehydration is the bigger issue.

“We have a lot of kids that we see here at Amplatz that have their own chronic diseases. And you can tip kids over because they’re kind of fragile when they get just a little bit dehydrated from their normal state. It’s a big deal,” said Hellmich.

While the warm weather is harder on our bodies, statistically, more people in the U.S. die from extreme cold conditions. That’s often because of deaths of the homeless and accidents in the snow or ice.

“When you’re doing hot weather activities you’re often with other people. They pick up signs and say, ‘hey, you’re looking bad. You need some water,'” he said.

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