To describe the self-reported ambient cold exposure in northern Sweden and to relate the level of cumulative cold exposure to the occurrence of sensory and vascular hand symptoms. We hypothesize that cold exposure is positively related to reporting such symptoms.
A questionnaire about cold exposure and related symptoms was sent out to 35,144 subjects aged 18-70 years and living in northern Sweden.
A total of 12,627 out of 35,144 subjects returned the questionnaire (response rate 35.9%). Subjects living in the rural alpine areas reported more extensive cold exposure both during work and leisure time compared to the urbanized coastal regions. Frostbite in the hands was present in 11.4% of men and 7.1% of women, cold sensitivity was present in 9.7 and 14.4%, and Raynaud's phenomenon was present in 11.0% of men and 14.0% of women. There was a positive association between cumulative cold exposure and neurovascular hand symptoms.
The present study demonstrates that the cold environment in northern Sweden might be an underestimated health risk. Our hypothesis that cold exposure is positively related to reporting of neurovascular hand symptoms was supported by our findings. In addition, such symptoms were common not only in conjunction with an overt cold injury. Our results warrant further study on pathophysiological mechanisms and suggest the need for confirmatory prevalence studies to support national public health planning.
Cites: Public Health. 2011 Jun;125(6):380-8 PMID 21571349