Sunday, 25 December 2016

How To Deal With Winter Conditions With Nerve Damage

Today's post from (see link below) is not one to read if you're sitting warm and cosy with plenty to occupy your mind during the festive season. However, sooner or later, you're going to need to venture outside and if you have neuropathy, this can be a dangerous time of year. Apologies to all southern hemisphere readers who may need to wait six months before this article becomes relevant😩. Sometimes it's the heat of Summer that can confuse your nervous system and send your nerves jangling but the cold and wet conditions in Winter are the real killers for the neuropathic patient because due to numbness or pain, you can underestimate the effect it can have on your body. Worse than that is when you step outside and need to trust in your sure-footedness (which we don't have). Slippery conditions can be really dangerous and broken bones are the last things you want when you're suffering enough already! This article pretty much covers it and gives some useful tips for minimising the risks when you're on your way from A to B. Another good tip not mentioned here, is to examine your feet when you get home (lack of feeling can hide a multitude of sins) and give them some TLC and of course, footwear with a good grip is essential.

Cold weather tips for people with neurological conditions 
Brain and Spine Foundation 2016 

In the winter months, everyone is vulnerable to the cold. Some people with neurological conditions can have extra cold-related problems, such as heightened nerve pain when the temperature gets low. We explain how cold temperatures can affect you if you have a neurological condition, and offer tips on staying warm and well in winter. 

Why is cold weather an issue?

People with certain neurological conditions may have extra reasons to avoid the cold, such as:

Nerve pain: If you have a condition that involves nerve pain, such as back pain, trigeminal neuralgia or a Chiari malformation, you will find that the temperature has an effect on your symptoms. This is to do with the nervous system and how it reacts to temperature changes. If the temperature is too hot you may feel tired and lethargic – and if it is too cold, this may heighten the pain you feel.

Muscle stiffness:
Cold weather can cause muscle stiffness and spasms if you have multiple sclerosis or suffer from spasticity. It’s best to avoid being out in the cold for too long if this affects you.

Loss of sensation: Some people are not able to differentiate between hot and cold. If you have this problem, take extra care not to expose yourself to cold temperatures – or to get too close to fire or radiators if you can’t feel the heat.

Blood pressure: If you are watching your blood pressure, or have vascular problems, you need to take special care to avoid being out for long periods in the cold, and to make sure your home is warm enough. Contact your local GP surgery if you are worried about your blood pressure or would like to get it tested.

Cold-related illness: People with certain chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, are offered a free annual flu jab, to protect against seasonal flu. This is because they may be more susceptible to catching the flu, and may have a higher risk of complications if they catch it. (You can find out more about flu jabs from your local GP surgery.)

Icy conditions: Slippery paths and pavements can be unsafe for anyone, but you should take extra care if you have mobility problems or suffer from dizziness or balance problems.

Dealing with low temperatures

Here are some tips for dealing with the cold weather: 

Wrap up warm! Extra layers, such as thermal underwear, can help keep the heat in. When out and about keep your hands and feet warm with socks and gloves, and wear a winter coat, hat and scarf.
If you have nerve pain in a particular part of the body, make sure that part is particularly well protected when you go out. For example, keep your face warm with a scarf or a balaclava if you suffer from face pain.

Hot water bottles and portable heat pads can be useful for extra warmth – and if you’re going on a journey, bring a flask of hot drink.

Heat your home. The ideal temperature for your main living room is between 18 and 21C, and you should try to keep the temperature above 18C in your bedroom at night. If you are worried about the extra cost of heating your home in winter, there are benefits available that you might be able to get – see below for details.

Insulate your home. Keep doors and windows shut and close the curtains to keep the heat in. Investigate loft insulation and cavity wall insulation if you don’t have them already – they will save on heating bills and you may be able to get a grant to help with the cost.

Make sure you are eating and drinking properly, as this will keep your energy levels up and help your body to cope with the colder temperatures. Eat hot meals and plenty of fruit and vegetables.
If you can, stay active – moving about will improve your circulation, generate heat and make you feel better.

Alcohol is often thought of as a “winter warmer”, but it can deceive you by making you feel warmer than you really are. The Drinkaware website has more information on drinking alcohol in cold weather.
If nerve pain is much worse in the cold weather, your doctor might be able to prescribe further medication to help alleviate the symptoms.

Don’t be tempted to go out when the weather is bad if it’s not really necessary – especially in icy conditions. If you have a friend or neighbour who can check on you or bring round some shopping, ask them to help.

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