Skip to content
    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Do We Really Lose Most of Our Heat Through Our Heads?

    Only if we're wearing clothes on the rest of our body, says this expert in wilderness medicine.
    By
    WebMD Magazine - Feature

    In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics, including some of the oldest -- and most beloved -- medical myths out there. In our January-February 2011 issue, we asked Richard Ingebretsen, MD, PhD, a wilderness medicine expert at the University of Utah School of Medicine, about the oft-spouted idea that we lose most of our heat through our heads.

    Q: Mom always said to wear a hat in the cold because we lose 80% of our body heat through our head. Is that true?

    A: Lots of people believe that but this pearl of motherly wisdom is FALSE. Here's why.

    The head only represents about 10% of the body's total surface area. So if the head were to lose even 75% of the body's heat, it would have to lose about 40 times as much heat per square inch as every other part of your body. That's unlikely -- which has been borne out by tests of college students who lost the same amount of heat whatever the exposed area.

    "The real reason we lose heat through our head is because most of the time when we're outside in the cold, we're clothed," says Richard Ingebretsen, MD, PhD, an adjunct instructor in the department of internal medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine. "If you don't have a hat on, you lose heat through your head, just as you would lose heat through your legs if you were wearing shorts."

    "There's really no such thing as 'cold,' when you're talking about the body," Ingebretsen says. "There's always heat -- it's just a matter of keeping it in."

    Reviewed on January 04, 2011

    Hot Topics

    WebMD Video: Now Playing

    Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

    Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

    disciplining a boy
    Types, symptoms, causes.
    fruit drinks
    Eat these to think better.
    embarrassed woman
    Do you feel guilty after eating?
    diabetes supply kit
    Pack and prepare.
    Balding man in mirror
    Treatments & solutions.
    birth control pills
    Which kind is right for you?
    Remember your finger
    Are you getting more forgetful?
    sticky notes on face
    10 tips to clear your brain fog.
    Close up of eye
    12 reasons you're distracted.
    woman biting a big ice cube
    Habits that wreck your teeth.
    apple slices with peanut butter
    What goes best with workouts?
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    Myths and facts.

    Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

    It's nothing to sneeze at.

    Loading ...

    Sending your email...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Women's Health Newsletter

    Find out what women really need.