Chilly weather can cause woes even in Tropics

Yes, freezing to death is possible in tropical Costa Rica.

That is why the highest point on the Interamericana Sur is called Cerro de la Muerte. This is where travelers and oxcart drivers would die in the near-freezing overnight conditions.

The unwary can experience hypothermia even when the outside air is not freezing. The body struggles to maintain its 98.6 F or 37 C internal temperature, and it is the drop in body temperature that causes problems.

The mind can play tricks with the loss of just a few degrees of body temperature. Being wet and inadequately clothed is a good route to  hypothermia.

That’s why health authorities have a quick solution: More clothes, and button up. The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social said that Tuesday. The health agency also noted that cold in itself does not cause illness. But a drop in external temperature can promote changes in body membranes that affect respiration. Those with existing conditions such as asthma are affected quicker, the Caja noted.

Clothing could include scarves and handkerchiefs to cover the mouth and chest, said Wing Ching Chan Cheng, a pneumonologist at Hospital México. The physician was quoted in a Caja summary.

The health warning comes at a good time because Saturday is the evening for the Festival de la Luz. Perhaps as many as a million people will line the parade route from Parque la Sabana to Plaza de la Democracia. Many will have children who come to enjoy the pre-show that starts at 3 p.m. As the sun goes down, so does the temperature.

The Instituto Meterológico Nacional predicts overnight temperatures of from 13 to 16 degrees, about 55.5 to 61 F. Other predictions are a few degrees lower. Then there is the wind chill. The country has been hit with 50- to shiver12111480-kilometer (31 to 50-mile per hour) winds caused by a high pressure area over the southern United States and the gulf of México.

There also are some scantily clad performers among the parade marchers.

Without good clothing, some parade spectators might be uncomfortable and even spend the evening shivering. The Cruz Roja has aid stations planned for emergencies, and mild  hypothermia is reversed easily.

Many Costa Rican homes are built for maximum ventilation and not for protection from the chill and winds. So the solution to the weather is plenty of blankets.

Health officials also note that drinking alcoholic beverages can contribute to a drop in body temperature. They keep the temperature up, humans rely on food, but those on diets or those too poor for decent meals are at risk.

Meanwhile, tourists and residents at the beaches will be trying to prevent sunburn and overheating

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