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Keeping warm in the cold weather: 8 myths debunked

Snow fell in southern Ontario on Nov. 23, 2013. Courtesy of CityNews viewer Serap Kayar.

Temperatures are plummeting in Toronto and across the GTA and staying warm is top of mind for residents.

But there are some common tips and tricks that may actually do more harm than good. Read on to separate facts from fiction and click here for the full weather forecast.

Body heat isn’t lost through the head

According to the University of Rochester, “there’s nothing special about your head. You’ll lose body heat from any part of your body that is exposed.”

However, it’s still a good idea to wear a hat, and to keep kids covered up.

“The ratio of the surface area of a child’s head relative to the child’s body surface area is much greater than that of an adult,” the university said, so hoods and hats are more important for the younger set.

Being cold won’t give you a cold

Going outside with wet hair or merely being cold won’t give you a cold – only a virus will. Both the University of Rochester and Men’s Health explained that it’s not the weather that’s making you sick, even though it may feel like it.

Drinking alcohol won’t make you warmer

Grabbing a “beer coat” before you brave the line outside the bar?

Don’t, the scientists at MythBusters warn. Alcohol may make you “feel warmer, but it actually lowers your core body temperature.”

Alcohol makes your blood vessels constrict, which can lead to brief feeling of warmth on your skin. However, it actually means you’re losing body heat.

Men and women actually do feel cold at different temperatures

Men and women actually do feel cold at different temperatures, due to a phenomenon called the set point temperature.

The Georgetown Hospital System explains that “the external temperature at which men’s and women’s bodies begin conserving heat varies by about three degrees.”

For women, that temperature is about 70F (21 C) while for men its closer to 67F or 68F (20C).

A roaring fire won’t keep you warm

A crackling fireplace may warm the cockles of your heart but it won’t do much for you – or your home, according to Men’s Health magazine.

The closers you are to the fire, the warmer you’ll feel, but an open hearth fireplace actually acts as a vacuum, sucking the warm air from your home.

“It will actually cool the house by drawing warm air out through the chimney,” Kirk Smith, Ph.D., a professor of global environmental health at the University of California at Berkeley, told the magazine.

Cotton is not a good insulator

Cotton is not a good base layer because when it gets wet, it conducts heat away from the body “at a much more rapid rate than other fabrics,” the University of Rochester explained.

Even sweat can cause cotton to much of its warmth. The university suggests polypropylene, Capilene, or some other synthetic substance as a substitute.

Don’t turn off the heat in your home

Turning off the heat in your home during the day is not the best way to conserve energy, money-saving website BankNote explains, especially if you live in an area with a risk of frozen water pipes.

Instead, keep the heat on in your home but at a low setting. Invest in a programmable thermostat and low your home’s temperature when you’re away.

Exercising outdoors is safe

Exercising outdoors is safe in the winter provided you take the proper precautions, according to the Britain’s National Health Service. Layer up, wear reflective items, and make sure to warm up and cool down properly.