Human vulnerability and variability in the cold: Establishing individual risks for cold weather injuries
Human tolerance to cold environments is extremely limited and responses between individuals is highly variable. Such physiological and morphological predispositions place them at high risk of developing cold weather injuries [CWI; including hypothermia and/or non-freezing (FCI) and freezing cold injuries (NFCI)]. The present manuscript highlights current knowledge on the vulnerability and variability of human cold responses and associated risks of developing CWI. This review 1) defines and categorizes cold stress and CWI, 2) presents cold defense mechanisms including biological adaptations, acute responses and acclimatization/acclimation and, 3) proposes mitigation strategies for CWI. This body of evidence clearly indicates that all humans are at risk of developing CWI without adequate knowledge and protective equipment. In addition, we show that while body mass plays a key role in mitigating risks of hypothermia between individuals and populations, NFCI and FCI depend mainly on changes in peripheral blood flow and associated decrease in skin temperature. Clearly, understanding the large interindividual variability in morphology, insulation, and metabolism is essential to reduce potential risks for CWI between and within populations. © 2022 Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada (Department of National Defence).
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Temperature, 9 (9), 158-195