Officials use thermal imaging camera to test effectiveness of clothing in cold weather

A thermal imaging camera is used to test heat during a recent demonstration. (WCHS/WVAH)

A person can suffer from frostbite in just a matter of moments if the conditions are cold enough.

While you may think you are bundled up enough to brave the cold, experts say think again.

On mornings like Monday with single-digit temperatures, those who must be outside better do what they can to stay warm.

“The skin gets cold very quickly when it’s exposed,” Mike Oakley with Kanawha County Emergency Management said.

Thanks to a thermal imaging camera, which Kanawha County first responders typically use at the scene of a fire, we now have a pretty good idea of the best ways to survive the cold.

“We used it this morning to show the difference in temperatures between having skin exposed and not having skin exposed,” Oakley said.

The blackish tones indicate areas where heat is contained, thus warming one's body. But in the much lighter areas it’s a very different story as heat escapes. To prevent this, be sure to dress in layers, but make sure those layers are made up of the right materials.

“The polyesters, the synthetic materials, wool, those are better,” CW Sigman with Kanawha County Emergency Management said. “Cotton kills. You sweat, you're working hard in the cold weather and cotton retains the moisture.”

Some mittens can keep your hands warmer longer than gloves. Experts say to be sure to protect your extremities as they are most prone to frostbite. Oakley said this includes your toes, fingers, earlobes, cheeks and nose.

“If you don't have good shoes on, your feet will get cold, and you're losing heat at that point,” Sigman said.

Until we start seeing those warmer temperatures again, there is one important rule of thumb.

“You get down below that 10-degree mark -- you get down in the single digits -- especially with the wind chill -- if you don't have to be outside, there's no reason to be wandering around,” Oakley said. “There's no reason to take that chance of something happening.”

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