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.

More from Jason DeRusha
  • M

    I would take heat over cold any day. Its way easier to drink a glass of water to get re hydrated than it is to warm up a body part that is numb from the cold.

    • mom

      m I agree, when Dec and Jan come around this year I will be wishing we were back in the great heat weave. It is much more fun to be at the pool or lake than shoveling or blowing snow in 20 below temps.

  • Jenny

    I’ve got no complaints with the heat we’ve been having. It’s kind of hypocritical to complain all winter long about how cold it is and then complain during the summer about it being too hot. I will enjoy the warmth (yes, even the extreme heat) for as long as I can because the winter is long and it will be here soon enough. Oh, and I’m always cold, so being hot is kind of a nice change of pace.

    • JamieinMN

      How is that hypocritical?!?!! LMAO, not sure if you know the meaning of that word, (1. The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.
      2. An act or instance of such falseness.) THAT is hypocritical. Simply complaining about either extremes is just simply……complaining.

      • Jenny

        Thanks for the grammar lesson, Jamie, but I think you understood what I was saying.

        • JamieinMN

          Actually no I don’t because your statement made no sense.

          • yeppers

            Grammar police just calm down. I knew exactly what she meant. Save your attitude for the political threads.

            • Jim

              JamieinMN must be a REALLY fun person to spend time with.


              • AF

                Ya I think we all knew what Jenny was saying.

                Talk about complaining….. Jeez

  • See BS

    You burn more calories when it’s cold, cuddle, and pretend to hide a beer gut with a sweater or zip up hoodie.

    Fireplaces are cozy too :-)

  • Mark from Minnetonka

    cold, definitely definitely cold

  • JamieinMN

    I definitely prefer the extreme cold….even more so because I live in an apt and heat is included!

  • Nancy Aleshire

    More health problems are aggrevated by heat than cold (ex. diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, inflammatory bowel disease). Also you don’t have much warning that you have gotten too much heat, even if you try to take precautions. I’ve seen interviews with paramedics who wind up in emergency rooms. I’ve experienced temperatures from -40 degrees to 110 degrees and I’ll take the forty below anyday.

  • Pamela Dopkins Ekstrom

    I don’t mind either! That’s why I live here! You have to enjoy every season! All have positives and negatives!

  • yeppers

    The grass is greener for me. In the winter I want heat and in the summer I want the cold. If you average it out I probably have no real preference.

  • Dave A

    Just remember, You can always put on more layers, but you can only take so many layers off……..

  • Guy

    Cold – you can always add another layer of coats (even if you have to go outside thru the garage door) … but once you get down to the question of “boxers vs. briefs”; you are scr@wed

  • AF

    I honestly like the cold better. You can always add layers, and cuddle with your hubby.

    If it’s too hot, there are only so many layers to take off, and “ew don’t touch me everything is sticky” is what I have to say to cuddling in the heat.

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