We all know people who complain that they are always cold. Living in NEPA, winter or damp cold fall and spring can make these poor people miserable 6 or more months a year! While it may never feel like Costa Rica, there are options to make our climate more tolerable for those suffering from the cold. Confession: Last year I broke down and bought rechargeable electric ski boot heaters…I LOVE THEM!
While some environmentally conscious folks will think this is a waste of energy, those who suffer from constant chill will feel otherwise. Taking the chill out of your clothes first thing in the morning can set the pace for a nice toasty day. Run them through a short spin just before you get dressed. Your body is usually warmest in the morning, so why not try to keep up the toasty vibe!
Cold temps require more energy demand from your body so you require more fuel to burn to maintain your core body temperature. One hot meal a day with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other unprocessed foods will serve you well.
Ok, not very sexy, but cold feet don’t cut it either! Wearing socks in bed can help heat your whole body and warm feet can signal your brain that it’s time to go to sleep. If that is the bedtime message you want to send but you don’t want to wear socks then consider wearing warm, fuzzy slippers for a while before bed.
Flannel is not only cozy, but it still breathes so that you won’t get too hot or damp from sweat. Silk is a good second choice to keep you warm, but it might not breathe as well. If you’re really cold, try long underwear and a hat, or “nightcap.”
Iron and B12 are essential to prevent anemia. If you have anemia, you may not have enough red blood cells to take oxygen around your body and that will make you feel chilly. People with poor diets or malabsorption problems may not get enough B12. Pregnant women sometimes have lower levels of iron, because their bodies use more than usual. Sources of B12: chicken, eggs, or fish. Sources of Iron: poultry, pork, seafood, chickpeas, and green leafy vegetables.
Lay it on! Several light layers keep you warmer than a single heavy one. Start with something thin, like thermal underwear that wicks away moisture then add insulation like a wool sweater or down jacket if outdoors. Use a windbreaker as an additional outer shell. Three layers seem to be a sweet spot, but you can adjust. Not warm enough? Add another layer if your too hot, take a layer off.
Also, for those who do not tolerate the cold but love to be outdoors (skiing, ice skating, walking etc) consider some of the new technology. Chemical or rechargeable electric hand and foot warmers, electric heated jackets, vests or shells are also an option.
Electric blankets are OK but can waste heat as heat rises to the ceiling. A heated mattress pad may be a better option. It fits snugly like a sheet and it stays in place.
Do you break a little sweat when you eat too many jalapenos? Spicy food literally warms up your body and maybe something to consider for extra warmth, unless you have stomach problems like ulcers. In fact, a spicy diet can be good for you. Just don’t overdo it!
Space heaters have come a long way to warm smaller areas. Pick a UL-approved unit that fits your space and purpose. A “convection” type with a fan might be best to heat a whole room. A “radiant” model is better to heat a specific spot. Put it on a level surface away from moving people. Keep pets and children away. Plug electric heaters directly into the wall, and look for a safety switch that turns it off when it’s knocked over.
Go for a walk or jog. If it’s too cold outside, hit the gym, or just do some jumping jacks, pushups, or other exercises indoors. Not only will it warm you up, it helps build and keep your muscles strong, which also burn calories and creates body heat. If you’re healthy enough for it, vigorous exercise might even raise your core body temperature.
It can take 2 weeks to adjust to a cold, new environment and may take longer if you are older or have very little body fat. Some medications, like blood thinners or those for allergies or asthma can add to the problem. People who spend lots of time outside often find it easier to get used to sudden changes in temperature
Just because your footwear is insulated doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll keep you warm. Boots that aren’t well sealed from moisture can turn into ice blocks. Look for a high IPX rating. IPX-8 is the highest. It means you could dunk the whole boot in water and your foot would stay dry. And be sure to buy them big enough to fit in some thick wool socks.
Tell your doctor if you’re more sensitive to the cold than in the past. It could be a symptom of a problem with your nutrition, red blood cells (anemia), blood vessels, thyroid gland, or the brain’s thermostat. Try to note how often it happens, how long it lasts, and if it’s getting worse. Your doctor might do some tests to narrow down the cause.
NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” Next Week – LBP Part II of III
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician.
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Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice in downtown Scranton and is an associate professor of clinicalmedicine at GCSOM.