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Just Another Rainy Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. . .

I spent 10 years in the Chicago area and I do NOT miss the snow, bitter cold and ice! I don’t believe I would be able to tolerate the cold anymore, because I am on vasodilators for my heart condition. I currently live in the southeastern region of the U.S. We still get four seasons, but some are longer than others. My least favorite season is winter. Winter in this area means rain, sometimes ice, rare snow, and cold (20-30 degrees). The gray rainy days are the worst for me.

The impact of barometric and weather changes

We have many articles on RheumatoidArthritis.net about barometric changes and weather affecting us. Some of us do better in cold weather. I am not one of those.

How my body reacts to weather and temperature changes

Heat is better for me and humidity in the summer doesn’t seem to affect my RD. However, humidity in the winter seeps into my bones and joints. My fingers and toes are impacted the most. My rheumatologist asked me to describe the feeling; “My fingers feel like the bones are made of ice” was my reply. Have you ever felt that way? My neck gets cold too, but my skin sensitivity keeps me from wearing turtlenecks.

Seasonal affective depressive disorder (SADD)

Chronic pain has a huge impact on mental health, most notably depression. Chronic pain eats through serotonin like a hungry teenage boy. Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters in our brain responsible for happy feelings. So, we who deal with RD are already at a deficit.

Why does SADD happen?

In addition, many of us deal with SADD, Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder. This happens when we don’t get enough sunshine to sustain our happy mood. I recently found out that there is reverse-SADD, where people do well on gray days and feel miserable on sunny days. I deal with SADD every winter, especially after the time change. Some years, it is mild and I can manage it. Some years, it hits me like a brick wall and I have to add an anti-depressant.

Tips on how to manage weather changes

Managing season, barometric and weather changes takes creativity, willingness to try different approaches, and naps!! Before I look at my weather app when I wake up, my body already knows if it’s a gray day. I struggle to wake fully, it takes longer to force myself out of bed, and everything hurts when I step down. If it wasn’t for the promise of coffee, I might not even get out of bed. On those days, I allow myself an extra 10 minutes in bed and extra coffee.

Bundling up with scarves to stay warm

I recently started wearing more scarves in the winter. I like scarves because they are easy to put on and get off (in case of hot flashes). They also come in different weights and add an element of fashion. Scarves keep my neck warm, which also keeps my hands from getting cold due to the circulation system. I can also wrap them around my head to keep it warm.

Different methods to warm hands

Speaking of hands, gloves and mittens are essential. Sometimes I layer them when it’s really cold. Many days when I get home, I wrap my heating pad around my hands. A newer remedy I have found is a paraffin bath. I dip my hands every day in the winter, and sometimes twice a day.

Keep the skin moisturized and hydrated

Making sure that your skin stays hydrated in the winter prevents dry skin, which always makes me feel colder. I use body butter because I find that it holds in moisture better than lotion. I also make sure to drink plenty of liquids in the winter to combat dehydration.

Keeping our feet warm is critical

I keep throw blankets all around my home, primarily for my legs and feet. Cold feet make me cold all over! Socks, sometimes doubled, are mandatory. Boots are mandatory as well, preferably fuzzy lined boots.

The most important way to manage winter weather is to minimize your outdoor time. What other tricks and tips do you use? I would love to hear them.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • qejm0g
    2 months ago

    Thanks for writing this! I almost asked myself if I wrote it as it is spot on what is/has happened to me over and over! I feel all those symptoms and do all the same things…2 things not mentioned that help me thru the winter is an electric blanket under the fitted sheet on my bed-so cozy and helpful for relaxing my stiff body before going to sleep and before getting out of the bed. And the second is to give myself a ‘spit shine’ (actually its a face cloth wash) every other day instead of taking a full on shower to keep my skin from drying out and getting fatigued so early in the day especially on days where the barometer is below 30-my tipping point for pain. The lower it goes the worse I will feel. I recently tried this: I knew weather was to get worse so I increased my dose of nightly prednisone just a bit to see if it helped…it did a bit. Thanks for writing and validating my symptoms!

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator author
    2 months ago

    @qejm0g,
    Thank you! I knew I had to have some kindred souls out there! I used to use an electric mattress pad. Since I purchased me memory foam mattress and waterproof cover, I’m warm as toast!
    “Washcloth baths” are an essential part of my routine. I forgot to mention those.
    I am so glad this article was helpful to you.
    Keep caring for your body and soul,
    Mary Sophia

  • David Advent moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi Mary Sophia,

    Thank you for this article! I’ve been feeling the exact same way with the onset of winter here (although for us in Florida, it’s fairly mild compared to Chicago but alas!). My hands and hips get really stiff in the cold, and it makes me miserable.

    Thank you also for providing such great tips; I’m going to have to stock up on blankets for the duration of the season.

    All the best,

    David (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member)

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator author
    2 months ago

    Hi David! Thanks! I’m now in East TN, so no more Chicago weather.
    Mary Sophia

  • Daniel Malito moderator
    2 months ago

    @c7mv96 I have to say I learned a lot about SADD with this post! I had only heard of the SADD drunk driving thing from high school, not the disorder, and I can say I think I know a few people who are affected by it! Great info, good to look out for, thanks! Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator author
    2 months ago

    I think you were thinking of MADD (mothers against drunk driving)!

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