Authored by Stephanie Densmore-Farnworth
Living with systemic sclerosis, particularly for those also dealing with Raynaud's phenomenon, can pose unique challenges, especially during the colder months. The cold weather can exacerbate symptoms and make day-to-day activities more challenging. However, with careful planning and the right tools, it's possible to thrive even in the coldest of seasons especially while living in Canada! In this blog post, we'll explore some practical tips to help systemic sclerosis persons, with a special emphasis on those battling Raynaud's, not only survive but also make the most of the winter months.
Embrace the Outdoors in Moderation:
While the cold weather can be intimidating, spending some time outdoors is crucial for overall well-being.
Plan short outdoor excursions to avoid prolonged exposure to the cold. This can help prevent Raynaud's attacks and ensure you enjoy the benefits of fresh air and natural light. Also try to plan for outdoor events that have shelter or the opportunity to get indoors if you are feeling the cold.
Invest in Heated Gear:
Heated gloves and socks can be game-changers for individuals with Raynaud's. These specially designed accessories provide warmth to your extremities, reducing the risk of painful episodes. For heated gloves and socks do your research and make sure that you check they are heated to the tips of your fingers or toes. If you have private coverage, you can even ask your Health Care Professional for a medical note to try for reimbursement.
Consider heated blankets and clothing for additional comfort during colder nights. If you have the opportunity to snuggle up and sleep by a fireplace, embrace that for the romance and ambience!
Layer Up for Warmth:
Dressing in layers is an effective strategy to trap heat and maintain a comfortable body temperature.
Choose thermal or moisture-wicking fabrics for the innermost layer to keep sweat away from the skin, preventing discomfort. Connecting with other people who are affected with scleroderma, can help you find the brands that they have found to be most helpful. It is a great way to research and connect with your peers (check Scleroderma Canada’s website for monthly mixers for opportunities to connect with others!)
Stay Connected for Mental Health:
Winter blues can affect anyone, and it's crucial to stay connected with friends and family for emotional support. Also check with your Family Health Care team to get advice on Vitamin D usage during the winter months. Vitamin D deficiency in Canada within winter often goes under diagnosed and can lead to fatigue and general malaise.
Engage in virtual social activities or support groups to combat feelings of isolation. Sharing experiences with others who understand your challenges can be immensely comforting. There are many online formats that are fun and engaging. You care try online Escape rooms or Online trivia to help beat your friends and the winter blues!
Hydration is Key:
Cold weather can lead to dehydration, which can worsen symptoms. Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day.
Opt for warm beverages like herbal teas to not only hydrate but also add an extra layer of warmth.
Mindful Exercise Indoors:
Regular exercise is essential for maintaining joint flexibility and overall health. During colder months, consider indoor activities like gentle yoga, chair yoga, tai chi, or swimming in a heated pool. Insider tip: call your local community pool to ask what the pool temperature is prior to heading to the pool.
Consult with your healthcare provider to create an exercise plan that suits your specific needs and limitations. Often there is senior citizen programming that is more gentle that can be modified to any age group or physical limitation.
Monitor Indoor Temperature:
Maintain a comfortable indoor temperature to prevent sudden shifts when moving between indoor and outdoor environments. If you are in a shared space do not hesitate to speak up and let others know you need a warmer temperature to feel comfortable.
Use space heaters or electric blankets judiciously to create a cozy environment without overheating. Often using a smart thermostat can help with setting temperatures that are specific to you and your needs.
Plan Ahead for Outings:
Before heading out, check the weather forecast to prepare for temperature changes. And keep an extra layer of clothing in your car for when the weather person is wrong 😊
Pack essentials like hand warmers, an extra pair of gloves, and any necessary medications to ensure you're well-equipped for the day.
Surviving the cold with systemic sclerosis and Raynaud's requires a proactive approach, combining lifestyle adjustments, proper clothing, and emotional support. By implementing these strategies, you can navigate the winter months more comfortably and focus on enjoying the season's unique charms without compromising your health. Always consult with your healthcare team for personalized advice tailored to your specific needs.
A little bit about Stephanie:
Over the last 15 years, I have dedicated my career to serving as a clinical medical assistant at McMaster University's Department of Medicine. Recently, I assumed the role of National Coordinator for the Canadian Scleroderma Research Group (CSRG), adding a new dimension to my professional journey. In this dynamic position, I have embraced additional responsibilities, including the management of social media accounts and the coordination of patient education events in collaboration with CSRG and Dr. Larché. This opportunity has invigorated my passion for contributing to the advancement of scleroderma research and forging connections with patients on a broader scale.