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Winter Survival Tips from an ER Physician (And Former Army Ranger)

Jedidiah Ballard, DO, advises staying dry, hydrated and sheltered to survive extreme cold.

By AOA Media Team


Stay Dry, Hydrated And Sheltered to Survive Extreme Cold

CHICAGO—Feb. 8, 2017Severe winter weather can pose a deadly threat. Having a plan and some basic gear is key to survival, according to Jedidiah Ballard, DO, an osteopathic emergency physician and former Army Ranger.

Dr. Ballard, named the 2016 “Ultimate Men’s Health Guy”, has advice that can save lives in winter’s worst case scenarios, like becoming stranded.

1. Pack the car
If you drive, keep an extra coat, gloves, wool socks and a liter of water in your vehicle.

2. Stay Dry
Water saps body heat 27 times faster than dry cold. Wear a water-wicking base layer, either wool or synthetic, when outside for extended periods of time.

3. Hydrate
You won’t usually feel thirsty in cold weather because of cold-diuresis, a process in which the body shunts blood inward to the organs to prevent heat from escaping through the extremities. This creates the feeling that you’re well hydrated. However, it also makes the kidneys filter more blood and produce more urine, which in turn makes you have to pee. So you’re actually actively dehydrating. It is vitally important that you maintain water intake despite not feeling thirsty.

4. Protect extremities
Frostbite sets in within 30 minutes in temperatures of 0° and within 10 minutes at -10°. Because our body parts get numb in subfreezing temps, you won’t know it’s happened until you begin to thaw. So, it’s vital that you wear gloves and a hat to protect vulnerable extremities like fingers and ears.

5. If stranded, sit tight
Unless you know there is shelter within a mile, stay in your car. It is far more likely in a blizzard to get lost and have your safety compromised than if you stay in a car and are at least protected from wind and getting wet.

6. Know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning
This is especially true if you use a fuel-burning space heater in your home. Pay attention if you feel light-headed, dizzy or nauseous, or notice your pets acting funny. In such cases, get out of the house and get to an ER immediately. If stuck in your car, make sure the exhaust pipe is clear so carbon monoxide doesn’t back up into the car.

About the American Osteopathic Association

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 129,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; and is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at


Media Contact:  

Jessica Bardoulas

(312) 202-8038