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Myths about staying warm when it's cold outside, busted

The things your parents told you to get you to wear a hat growing up may not have been totally truthful.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It's finally happening. Jack Frost is nipping at our noses as East Tennessee prepares to drop into the teen temperatures for the first time this season.

The jackets, gloves and beanies are coming out of hiding and keeping the masses warm.

But what's better, layers or one big parka?

Is the cold weather itself making you sick?

10News went to the doctor's office for you to debunk some common myths about the cold.

1. Cold weather makes you sick.

People are starting to sniffle. Their throats are getting scratchy. If it's not happening to you, it's happening to your coworker. You're laying on the hand sanitizer just in case.

But the cold weather itself is not making you sick.

"The virus is more available and spreads more rapidly with the colder temperatures," said Jennifer Nash, PA-C, with the new Summit Express Clinic in Powell.

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You can't just walk into the cold and come inside with a disease, but you can catch it easier from someone else. 

"You also have people kind of huddled inside in closer quarters and not getting out as much and that can actually cause the spread of the viruses," said Nash.

2. Most of your body heat escapes through your head.

Before we head outside, we have to make sure our heads are covered because that's where all the heat escapes, right?

"No, you lose your body heat from any exposed skin," said Nash.

So my parents telling me 70 percent of my heat escaped through my ears isn't totally accurate.

"Just keeping everything covered is really what's important," said Nash.

3. Dressing in layers is the best way to stay warm.

You throw on a t-shirt, then a sweatshirt, then a jacket, then a scarf and a hat. That definitely sounds warmer than a heavy winter coat because it's more items, right?

"Really it's not even the layers, it's having good protective clothing on," said Nash.

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If you're wearing heavy layers, they'll do the trick. And that can be better for people who expect to warm up throughout their time outside, so they can shed layers as necessary.

For those of us just bundling up to walk to and from the car, layers won't protect you more than if you were just wearing a one heavy duty winter coat.  

4. You don't need sunscreen in the winter.

Okay but I feel like I can definitely leave the sunscreen at home because all of my skin except my face is covered in these layers.

Nash said that's not the case.

"Especially if it snows then you're getting the sun from above and you're also getting it reflecting off the snow," said Nash.

That can make the sun even harsher, and since we've all lost that summer tan, skin can burn easier in the winter.

5. You'll be fine if you go outside without a jacket.

We all have that friend or are the parent of a teenager who will say 'oh it's not that cold' and attempt to leave the house in shorts and without a jacket.

They will not get sick just by walking into the cold uncovered, but other things can happen to you in below freezing weather.

That includes frostbite.

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"It's gonna start with losing the feeling in the tips of the fingers or whatever the exposed area is," said Nash.

That's bad because bad enough frost bite can make you lose a limb, so I wouldn't risk it.

6. The more socks you wear, the warmer your feet.

Toes and fingers get cold fast, so it make sense to layer up your socks.

But the more layers on your feet in your warm boots, the more likely your feet are to sweat. That sweat then freezes, making your feet colder and more susceptible to frostbite.

"Exposure to any kind of moisture or water or winds can increase your risk of the frostbite," said Nash.

7. Alcohol will keep you warm.

Why take a jacket out for your night on the town when having a drink will warm you up?

"That's actually a bad idea," said Nash.

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She said alcohol actually lowers your body temperature, not warms it up.

"Alcohol can make you not feel [the cold] as bad so if you're out in the cold and you do start getting a little bit of frost nip you may not realize it," said Nash.

Not feeling the start of frostbite makes it more likely to be ignored, which could lead to some bad results.

7. Can your tongue get stuck to a frozen pole?

"I mean I'm not gonna try it," said Nash.

Good call on her part, because you definitely can get your tongues stuck to a frozen pole and none of us need to be reliving that scene from 'A Christmas Story' any time soon.