Adverse health effects of exposure to cold

Cold-related symptoms and complaints

  • Respiratory: increased mucus secretion, shortness of breath, wheezing, cough
  • Cardiovascular: chest pain, arrhythmia, shortness of breath
  • Peripheral circulation: colour change on fingers and toes, pain, numbness, tickling sensation
  • Musculoskeletal: pain, stiffness, swelling, restricted movement, paraesthesia, muscle weakness
  • Dermatological: itching, skin eruption, pale skin, erythema, oedema

Cold-related diseases and injuries

  • Respiratory: asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, infections
  • Cardiovascular: coronary and other heart disease, myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accidents
  • Peripheral circulation: Raynaud’s phenomenon, hand–arm vibration syndrome
  • Musculoskeletal: carpal tunnel syndrome, tension neck syndrome, tenosynovitis, peritendinitis
  • Dermatological: cold urticaria (hives), pernio (chilblains), psoriasis, atopic dermatitis
  • Injuries, such as frostbite, trench foot, hypothermia and falls

Cold-related deaths

  • Total mortality in most populations is higher in winter than in summer
  • The most common causes of death are: coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular accidents and respiratory diseases