If you’re a Raynaud’s sufferer like me, you know the struggles of keeping those digits warm. Since I was little, I’ve always struggled with staying warm enough and my hands have been a constant issue over the years. Now that I’m older, my toes have decided to join in, and it can be extremely frustrating seeing my fingers and toes go through the white, blue and red cycles of Raynaud’s. With the cold weather now here, it’s even more important now than ever to make sure that fingers and toes are toasty warm, to prevent damage and injury.
Raynaud’s is excessively reduced blood flow in response to cold temperatures or emotional stress. It causes the fingers and toes (more commonly) to discolour changing from white (when blood supply is reduced & area becomes cold & numb), to blue (oxygen supply is depleted) and finally red (blood flow returns and area starts to warm). These episodes can be short or last longer than others and for myself, are usually numbing, painful and tingly. If not careful, it can damage tissue and cause other problems. This is why it’s important to take care of these areas and use protective measures to prevent episodes.
After all these years, I’ve learned different tips to help decrease the amount of Raynaud’s episodes I have. Although they’re inevitable, doing the best I can to ensure they are kept at a minimum is key.
It’s important to put thought into what you wear, so that you can stay warm throughout the day. Thermal clothing is available all over now and it’s great at adding a layer of protection for us “frosties”. They even have Thermal inserts for your footwear!
GLOVES & MITTENS – This seems like an obvious choice. But anyone with Raynaud’s knows that it’s not always so simple. A simple pair of gloves for someone without Raynaud’s is likely enough to keep their fingers warm, but it takes more than a thin pair of gloves to keep my digits nice and comfy. I have spent YEARS looking for the perfect glove, and although I haven’t found the PERFECT one yet, I’ve found ones that are close. Find a glove that is long and goes up your arm. This helps prevent cold air getting inside your hands. The gloves alone often aren’t enough, so layer with a lined mitten. I love wool mittens and preferably those with sheep fur. If you’re going to have your hands in contact with wet snow, be sure your mitten has a water-proof outer layer. Heated gloves would be FABULOUS but I don’t like the bulkiness of them for every day use, especially since I’m a mom of two little ones and need to function. Heated gloves are ideal though.
SOCKS – Not just any pair of socks. I know for myself, regular socks do nothing to keep my toes warm. I have now found thick, thermal socks that are great and add an extra measure of protection and warmth inside my shoes.
BOOTS – Make sure your boots are waterproof, especially on your feet, and are lined. I LOVE sheep fur lining and it does an awesome job at keeping my feet toasty. It’s important that your boots fit correctly and aren’t too snug or too tight. If they’re too tight, that can put stress on your toes, and if they’re too loose, water and snow can get trapped inside, resulting in wet, cold feet.
LAYERS – Layer up!! It’s not all about keeping just your toes and fingers (or other affected areas) warm. You have to keep your core body temperature up to ultimately warm the rest of your body. Make sure you invest in an under layer to wear under your pants and shirts. I found a great pair of super thin wool leggings that are seamless under my jeans and much to my surprise, keep me really warm. They even repel sweat! Make sure you have a thick, warm jacket that is long enough to cover your butt area as well, and preferably a hood attached. Don’t forget your scarf!! A nice wide, thick one is best.
HAT/EARMUFFS – One of the best investments I made last year, were my super warm ear muffs. Nothing gets through them and they keep my ears nice and toasty, which is important for Raynaud’s sufferers. On really cold, windy days, layer with a warm hat that covers your ears as well. I like those hats with the side flaps and a string so it doesn’t blow around. It helps prevent wind getting through. A hat is SO important because heat escapes from your head and you want to keep that heat trapped in. Don’t let it out!
SNOW PANTS – I finally invested in a good pair of snow pants this year for those extra cold days that I need to walk the kids to school or play in the snow! I’m so limited to how much I can play in the snow with the kids, and this allows me to enjoy it again. As long as you know your limitations, you can still find enjoyment in those “chilly” activities.
HOW TO FIND WARM RELIEF
- If you find yourself struggling with an episode, I found that these two products are great at providing relief. You can conveniently place them in your purse and pull them out as needed. Toasterzare my favourite! My hubby bought them for me and they’re actually used by many people who ski, snowboard, skidoo, etc. You simply “snap” the metal insert inside and squish it with your hands to make it softer. The heat is instant and it provides about a 1/2 hour of relief…which is long enough to get those digits back up to par. All you do is boil them in water to make them “liquify” again and they’ll be ready to reuse for next time. Great idea and my go-to instant heater.
- Little Hotties is great to have in your purse because they’re smaller and don’t take up as much room. You simply grab one and knead it with your fingers to bring on the warmth. They don’t get as warm (or as quickly) as the Toasterz but they’re pretty “handy” to have at a moment’s notice and provide a soothing, subtle release of warmth. I like to stick them inside my mittens to trap the warmth. They usually last about 20 minutes or so.
- If you’re like me, being “inside” can be just as tough of a place. Air conditioning is bittersweet in the summer because although it provides relief from the heat of the sun, it can be brutal for bringing on Raynaud’s episodes. Make sure your air conditioning isn’t too cold and it’s just “comfortable”. If needed, you can sport some thin gloves around the house, along with slippers and socks. I have a pair of thin gloves that I keep in my car and in my purse just in case I need them when grocery shopping. Too often I walk into a store and am greeted by instant COLD, resulting in my fingers discolouration and discomfort. I’ve learned my lesson by now, and regardless of what anyone thinks, I whip out a discreet, thin pair of gloves. It makes a huge difference!
- Heating Pad – I have a heating pad that I can warm up in the microwave and place on my feet and hands if I need extra warmth. It’s so soothing and provides lengthy relief to my suffering digits. It’s also handy for placing on your chest/tummy to raise your core temperature.
- Bedding – Flannel sheets and heated blankets are a great addition to any Raynaud’s suffer’s bed and helps keep you warm all night long, especially during the winter months. I love bundling myself up and hiding from the cold.
- Tea – I enjoy tea on a daily basis and I love how it not only soothes me, but provides calming and warm relief to my entire body. Green tea is full of antioxidants and is really healthy!
The kitchen is my #1 love/hate relationship. I love being in the kitchen, baking and cooking, but it has proved more and more difficult over the years with my hands. The slightest touch of a cold egg, cold raw meat, cold water, refrigerated items, etc. instantly throw my fingers into a flurry of discolouration, discomfort and pain. Which brings me to my kitchen tips:
- Wear a thin pair of gloves underneath disposable gloves to handle cold meats and products. Cotton gloves are great for this, especially when you need to retrieve items from the freezer. Rubber gloves will help protect your hands from water when doing dishes.
- Run hands under warm (NOT HOT) water if you feel they are too cold or an episode is coming on. It’s important that you know the temperature of the water so you don’t burn yourself by accident.
- Always wear kitchen mitts to handle hot items, especially from the oven. It’s important to protect your hands from the damage of extreme heat.
- Use a separate sprayer for rinsing veggies and other foods. I have one attached to my kitchen sink so I don’t have to immerse my hands in water when rinsing carrots, potatoes, broccoli, etc.
Last but not least…
Other tips are to exercise regularly, even just going for walks will help keep your body functioning more smoothly and keep blood flowing. Eat healthy – making sure you consume lots of anti-oxidants will ensure that you’re keeping your body maintained and on the right path. I like to incorporate a lot of things like garlic, beets, blueberries, green tea, ginger tea and even dark chocolate! Did you know that 70% or more dark cocoa chocolate can actually help increase blood flow? All in moderation of course!
Protect your fingers and toes from the cold, avoid medications that can aggravate blood vessel spasm (be careful with sinus and cold medications!). Avoid stress triggers as much as possible, avoid smoking and most importantly….KEEP WARM!
How do YOU keep warm?
Disclosure: I am not a health professional or medical expert. These are simply my suggestions from my own personal experience as a Raynaud’s sufferer. Your experience may differ. Always consult a doctor or health professional.