Why Does Wind Chill Cause Ear Pain

Wind chill is a much colder feeling than the forecasted temperature prediction due to the additional wind speed and your own body temperature being affected. Understanding wind chill means that you can be better prepared for colder temperatures than what has been predicted. For example with an estimated temperature of 2 degrees 'C today but a wind speed of 25 miles per hour, the temperature may actually feel more like - 5 degrees 'C.

Thats a drop of 7 degrees celcius and when wind and water is involved at even 5 degrees celcius, it will make it even colder.

Your ears are particularly sensitive to the cold. It takes much longer for blood to circulate to the extremities of your body as your body prioritises keeping your core warm and conserve body heat and energy.  With no fatty tissue, ears cool down particularly quick when exposed to cold weather, especially when you do not have a hat or ear muffs on.

Prolonged exposure to freezing winds puts your outer ears at risk of frost bite, this is common for extremity areas of the body and causes the area to firstly become red, sore, itchy, then it becomes tingly, numb and if exposed long enough will freeze.

Chill blains are also a reaction that can happen to the skin on your outer ear when exposed to cold temperatures. Chill blains appear as small, red marks on the skin that can be uncomfortably itchy. 

On a calm day there is an insulating layer on our skin that helps to keep the air closest to the skin warm. On a windy day this boundary layer is blown away meaning that on a day that is already cold it will feel even colder.  You'll notice on a cold windy day your ears will be one of the key parts of you that will feel particualrly cold to touch.

How your ear canal responds is a little different. Cold wind that enters the ear canal can cause quite some discomfort and irritation.  Pain can occur through changing temperature as the nerves in the ear canal run unprotected under the skin. Along with uncomfortable pain due to the temperature, a gust or a constant flow of cold wind can not only whip away that warm insulating layer around the skin but also dry your ear canal which is kept healthy by the lubrication of ear wax produced by sebacious glands.

Dry skin within the ear canal can cause itchiness, breakages in the skin and dried out and impacted wax.

Prolonged exposure of your ear canal to freezing winds can also cause bony growths to develop within the ear canal. Mostly common with surfers and cold water sports enthusiasts who have their ears exposed to cold waters, freezing winds can work in a similar manner. The development of bony growths can also cause moisture and wax build up within the ear canal which can also cause infection and pain.

For more information:

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/learn-about/weather/types-of-weathe....

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/earache/

https://patient.info/ears-nose-throat-mouth/earache-ear-pain

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/frostbite-how-spot-tr...

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chilblains/

Met Office What is Wind Chill

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