January brought with it some extraordinarily cold weather in the form of a polar vortex and lots of snow — and if you started experiencing a few unusual physical symptoms during the worst of it, there’s a reason for that: Tons of weird things happen to your body in extreme cold. Red noses are the least of it; when the temperatures drop to dangerous levels, everything from respiratory issues to erratic decision-making can become problems for our poor meat husks. Isn’t science… uh… interesting?
As Stephen Dowling put it at BBC Future in 2014, “The human body is not designed for polar cold.” It’s true that people living in some areas known for this kind of cold have adapted to it over time, but most of us don’t live in them and therefore can’t really cope with that kind of cold; As such, your body does all sorts of off things when exposed to these sorts of temperatures, all mostly geared towards trying to keep you warm and alive in unusual circumstances.
If you bundle up properly (Wear layers! Go for mittens instead of gloves! Put on a hat!) and limit your time outdoors, you probably won’t experience most of these occurrences — but if you’re planning on spending a lot of time outside in very, very cold weather (which, again, is not at all recommended), then here are nine things that might happen to you: