Heat Loss Through The Head

I have read figures that one can lose between 20-40% of your body heat through your head alone.   Although 13-16% of the beardcap-1.jpgbody’s blood volume is in the head at any given time it is a very exposed structure.  The problem is that the head is only about 10% of the body surface area.  Thus the head would have to lose about 40 times as much heat per square inch compared to the rest of the body.

Wilderness Medicine took volunteers, wired them to monitor their core temperatures, and discovered we lose heat through any exposed part of the body and the amount of heat we lose depends on the amount of exposed surface area.  The rate of heat loss is relatively the same for any exposed part of the body not simply the head. You do not lose heat significantly faster through the scalp than any other portion of the body with the same surface area. The idea that we lose heat faster through out scalp because of the constant blood supply to the brain is simply a myth.  This and other useful wilderness medicine information is available through their blog.


5 comments to Heat Loss Through The Head

  • Ben

    I remember hearing the 90% thing and laughing my ass off, but I still imagined that you lost more heat though your head. This is useful info. Thanks for finding it.

  • snake

    The art of winter camping is so much fun. i laughed so hard as well, and i just love it. i will be a winter camper for life thanks to you and your web site. thank you for uniting the winter campers of the world!

  • Jerry (not related to Ben)

    What happened to the notion, obviously erroneous, that is promoted in physics classes that heat rises?

  • CN

    I read the treferenced article and still do not think that this addresses issues such as the proximity of blood vessels to the skin and the rate of heat loss.

  • Ezra Burgess

    I have been involved in winter camping for over 35 years. The problem here is that the original statistic is not being stated properly. The original statistic made many years ago was that 50% to 70% of body heat is lost thru the head, neck and shoulder areas of the body. The solution to prevent this was and is to put on a good hat, close up your coat and/or wear a scarf. The heat-loss doesn’t come from the head only; but from the overall collection of heated air trapped in the clothing layers rising from the “chimney effect” caused by an open neck,head and shoulder area allowing all this heated air to escape thus chilling the body. Don’t forget, however, that when engaging in strenuous activities the body will produce greater amounts of heat, requiring you to open these areas for proper ventilation and then re-closing them when activity ceases.

    Ezra Burgess
    Former Nordic Advisor to the Eastern Division National Ski Patrol.