Winter Weather And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Surviving the Cold

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Getting chilled is a problem for a couple of reasons: first, you can have a hard time warming up; second, it can lead to flares of other symptoms. We hope that with a little planning and a few tips listed below you will be able to alleviate the worst of what cold weather means for your illness. These tips and the understanding of how and why such symptoms happen will contribute to your confidence and resources you will need to enjoy the holidays with your loved ones!

Why Do You Get So Cold?

Most chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) sufferers have adrenal and thyroid problems. Low adrenal function can actually cause someone’s thyroid problem to be much worse than it would be otherwise. And a very common symptom of an underactive thyroid gland is sensitivity to cold.

Many researchers believe disorders like CFS involve a dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system, called dysautonomia. That’s what controls our homeostasis, keeping things like our heart rate, digestion and body temperature within normal parameters. In dysautonomia, these automatic functions can be askew, and in many of CFS patients that’s highly apparent in their body temperature.

When a healthy person’s feet get cold, for example, the autonomic nervous system kicks into action, re-directing the flow of blood to warm up the area. As long as the situation isn’t extreme, the body should be able to overcome the effect of the environment.

Because of dysautonomia, though, when someone with CFS gets chilled feet, the body isn’t able to adapt properly, so the feet stay cold. Even putting on thick socks may not help warm up the feet. The environment has a greater impact on the body.

When pain is directly related to being cold but no tissue damage is occurring, it’s called thermal allodynia. This is very common in conditions like CFS and fibromyalgia, when the cold acts as a trigger for widespread pain in areas that aren’t cold, or triggers a cascade of other symptoms.

Preventing The Cold Weather Problem

While working with trained health professionals on improving and reversing your condition of chronic fatigue, the best way is to prevent yourself from getting overly cold. Some ideas for heading off the chills include:

  • Keeping your feet covered during cold weather
  • Dressing warmly (however, dressing too warmly can trigger the symptom of heat sensitivity in some)
  • Drinking hot beverages
  • Eating hot foods like soup and oatmeal
  • Bundling up before going out in the cold
  • Warming up your car before you leave home, especially with a remote starter
  • Keeping your environment warm
  • Having things like blankets and slippers handy

No matter how careful you are, you’re likely to get chilled from time to time. Once the cold sets in, it can be hard to shake.

When your body can’t get itself warmed up, you may need to find an outside heat source, such as:

  • A hot bath or shower
  • Hot water bottle
  • Heating products, such as battery-operated socks or mittens
  • Electric blankets
  • Heating pads

Be careful, though! You don’t want to burn yourself or trigger heat-related symptoms by trying to warm up too fast, or with something that is too hot. Go slowly and carefully.


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