Do we really lose the most heat through the head?

You must have learned this during your childhood: It is important to wear a hat when it is cold outside, because we humans lose most of the heat through our heads. Is this claim true or does science say otherwise?

Gloves, a hat and a scarf can come in handy when it’s cold outside. The hat looks especially important, because we lose most of the heat through this part of the body. It would be 40 to 50 percent of whole body heat.


This belief appears to be scientifically incorrect, As American researchers showed in 2009.
It’s not that if you go out without a hat, but are fully clothed, you still lose 40 to 50 percent of your body heat. The study showed that the percentage ranged between 7 and 10 percent. Even if you’re going out in the cold in a swimsuit or swim trunks, you’ll still lose about this percentage of body heat through the head.

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Where does the idea that one can lose 40 to 50 percent of their body heat through the head come from? Perhaps this is due to the results of experiments conducted by the US Army in the fifties of the last century. They put on test subjects in polar clothing, in which not only the head is covered. Then these people have to spend time in the freezing cold. Because the rest of their bodies are so well wrapped, they lose most of their body heat through their heads.

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The fact that you don’t lose 40 to 50 percent of the accumulated heat through the head is no reason to leave the hat at home from now on. American researchers emphasize in their work that protecting the head and face reduces the risk of, for example, hypothermia.

(Brown: The Guardian, BMJ, Life Science)

Megan Vasquez

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