Autumn arrives in early morning, but spring at the close of a winter’s day”Elizabeth bowen
Well, I woke up this morning to another cold day in the Toronto area. It has been an unseasonably cold March so far, at this moment it is -10 degrees C and feels like -18C, whereas on average in our area it is +1C on this date. Winter 2019 just wants to keep hanging on!
Winter Can Seem Even Longer with Raynaud’s Phenomenon
Raynaud’s Phenomenon episodes, when blood flow to extremities is restricted, is triggered by cold and stress. These very cold days keep those of us who experience Raynaud’s Phenomenon indoors to prevent Raynaud’s episodes, but sometimes out of necessity one must venture outdoors. In addition to the various medications that I take which are meant to reduce the likelihood of an episode it is still extremely important to take conservative measures to keep warm, especially hands and feet (other extremities like nose and ears are also at risk). All of this extra-cold and extra-long winter I have been dressing in layers and bundling up from head to toe! Even so, those fingers of mine will often still blanch and ache under my fuzzy mittens. I can put up with the discomfort, but the thought of permanent damage plagues my mind.
Recently, via Twitter, I read an article from the Raynaud’s Association (@raynaudsorg) that offered winter survival tips. Advice in this article included the idea of wearing rubber gloves under winter gloves. I have been experimenting with this over the past week and wanted to share my experience with fellow Raynaud’s sufferers and their caregivers.
As you may observe from the photo above, I am wearing clear latex medical gloves beneath fleece mittens. The image looks like gloves with the finger-tips cut off but there is actually a top to these mittens that fold over to cover finger tips. I used to wear gloves but mittens retain heat much better and with this style I can still do simple tasks with my fingers without completely removing the mitten. The thin *latex gloves fit nicely beneath my mittens and it was not difficult to get the layers on (*if you are allergic to latex, vinyl and nitrile gloves are also readily available).
While this isn’t a very scientific experiment, I observed over the four times that I used this strategy I experienced only one Raynaud’s episode — at night when it was extremely cold — but the other three times I wore them, in the daytime when temperatures would normally trigger my Raynaud’s, the layers worked well. In fact, when I was in a car, my hands would quickly become hot and eventually I would need to take off one layer or the other for comfort.
As opposed to just about every other type of mitten or glove, the latex glove does not ‘breathe’. The glove retains moisture which it seems is why this strategy keeps hands warmer. Another benefit besides warmth is that this layer would also help prevent dry skin and chapping so common in the winter and troubling for those of us with hand complications from scleroderma (swollen hands or tight skin). However, I found this quite quickly to led to sweaty hands, so it will take some getting used to and could become a skin health issue for some.
Layering with Latex/Rubber Gloves PROS:
- Keeps hands warmer than mittens alone
- Retains moisture to prevent dryness and chapping
- “Grippy” therefore providing better ability to grasp door handles or steering wheel problematic with fleece or knit mittens
- Able to use electronic devices (eg/ smartphone, tablet) which I can’t with mittens or ice-cold fingertips
- Inexpensive and available in bulk boxes
- Can be easily stowed away in a coat pocket or purse for when needed
- A little uncomfortable, will take some getting used to
- Makes hands sweaty
- Makes it difficult to remove the latex glove without pulling it inside-out
- Will need to replace gloves as moisture could lead to bacteria growth in glove
- If you have lesions on your fingertips from Raynaud’s it could lengthen the time it takes for them to heal (I was instructed that these lesions heal best when left open to dry-out)
- If you suffer from wart virus the sweaty hands might become an issue
- If you are wearing a bandage on your hand/fingers it will likely be pulled off when the glove is removed
- While reusable if you are careful when removing, can’t be washed like regular mittens and therefore will need to be replaced frequently (particularly due to the moisture retention)
- Extra cost
- Environmental concern as these gloves are not recyclable in my area
In conclusion, for me the PROS of avoiding a Raynaud’s episode outweigh the CONS; I will continue using the latex-layer strategy when it is very cold and I know mittens alone will not do the trick. If you try/have tried this this strategy, please share your experiences in the comments area below as it could be helpful to someone else with Raynaud’s or their caregiver.
When winter seems like it just won’t end, for those with Raynaud’s it can seem even longer! Though winter appears to be digging in its heals right now, the good news is that spring is just around the corner — Enjoy the sunshine of these cold, clear winter skies and keep warm friends!