Nothing burns like the cold.”George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones
A Bit About Raynaud’s Phenomenon
Well it is June and at long last it is getting warmer in Southern Ontario. It seems as though we skipped right over spring and stepped (practically) into summer! It is a big relief for most people but particularly so for those of us who suffer from a chronic chills and/or Raynaud’s Phenomenon/Disease.
Raynaud’s Phenomenon is a lack of circulation to the extremities brought on by changes in temperature (cold) and/or by stress. Those who suffer from Raynaud’s may find their fingers turn a lifeless white, many times displaying a distinct angled line across a few or all fingers. This can be painful, sometimes more so when the blood begins to return. As my Raynaud’s Phenomenon has gotten worse, so has the associated pain and often the colour change is to blue or purple. What I didn’t know years ago when I was first diagnosed with this sensitivity was that each episode can cause permanent damage to nerves and blood vessels. Conserving your extremities is, therefore, extremely important.
As Martin’s quote above from Game of Thrones so aptly puts it, “Nothing burns like the cold.” As a kid I learned this the hard way one wintry afternoon when I was about 10. I was walking home alone from a friend’s house when I was confronted by a couple of local bullies. We exchanged words, and the next thing I knew I was on the ground with one of them on top washing my face with icy cold snow. As my walk was a long one and there was no such thing as cell phones back then to call for help, the “snowing-in” happened a couple more times before I got home.
The ice-burn hurt like crazy and left an abrasion on my temple and around my left eye that rather quickly formed a scab. In those days when you got beat up parents would often ask you what you had done to deserve it… my how times have changed! At any rate, I learned a valuable lesson – cold hurts and leaves sores!
When Raynaud’s episodes are frequent, prolonged or extreme, lesions may begin to form on the finger tips. These can be terribly painful, as if the nerve has been exposed.
When it comes to protecting my hands and feet from the cold, I have learned some lessons the hard way. These days, in addition to medication, I take particular care of my hands and at this moment I have only one small sore to speak of. An unfortunate culprit for bringing on a Raynaud’s episode is the handling of cold drinks. That being said, there is no reason why we shouldn’t enjoy a nice icy refreshment on a hot day! Here are some tips and tricks I use when drinking cold beverages to help protect my sensitive fingers:
1. Use a Mug or Cup with a Handle for Cold Drinks
There is nothing as refreshing as a nice cold drink! The problem, if you suffer from Raynaud’s Phenomenon, holding an icy cold glass of anything, even for a few seconds can bring on an event. At home or when out visiting, choose a glass or coffee mug with a handle to protect your fingers from the cold glass. Mason jars with handles are currently on-trend, readily available, and inexpensive but any old coffee mug will do!
2. Dig Up Your Beer Cozy/Koozie
I feel like just about everyone has souvenir koozies kicking around their kitchen, even though they may have never used them… try the junk drawer or that cabinet with the stuff you never use. For cold cans or small bottles they actually do the trick very effectively! So far every friend’s house I’ve been to has had them!
3. Straws: Plastic, Paper and Re-Usable
If you are at a restaurant, it is likely you won’t get your soda pop brought to the table in a coffee mug, or that your beer cozy will fit the large cups used in restaurants so a straw is a good alternative. For environmental reasons, you may need to ask for the straw. The fact is, some restaurants have quit distributing straws so you might want to have your own supply with you. Position the cup close enough to you that you can lean in and sip through the straw without holding the cold cup, can or bottle.
For the environmentally conscious and for those times when you just can’t get a straw, consider carrying your own biodegradable paper straws or reusable straws. Perhaps keep a resealable bag in your purse, valise or car. My daughter asked for these stainless steel straws for Christmas, they come with a special pipe cleaner to wash the inside. TIP: keep a separate bag for transporting wet straws home for washing/composting so they won’t contaminate your unused straws.
4. Ask for a Coffee Sleeve
Particularly as the weather warms up, local coffee shops promote frozen beverages like frappes and smoothies; so tasty and refreshing but the worst for Raynaud’s. When ordering a frozen drink from your favourite coffee shop, ask for a hot cup sleeve. I have found in general that quick serve cafe’s who stock coffee sleeves are more than happy to oblige when selling an up-scale frozen beverage. For the environmentalists among us, the cardboard sleeves typically fold flat and can easily kept in your wallet to be reused several times before hitting the recycle bin. Obviously the sleeve does not provide complete insulation, but it does help.
5. Insulated Bottle
Perhaps the least convenient, but likely the most effective would be to employ a reusable insulated bottle or cup, Now readily available everywhere from big box stores to your local grocery. You can pick up insulated containers that are able keep beverages cold for up to 24 hours! The prices are coming down on these as competition fills the market. Choose a container that is BPA free and a lid that will be easy to wash… those of us with Raynaud’s secondary to scleroderma often have limitations with hands and fingers, making a dishwasher-safe bottle preferable. In order to ensure healthy, long-term use of the insulated beverage holder is to clean it after every use and as quickly as possible. If you aren’t able to wash the bottle right away, consider rinsing it out or adding water to prevent build-up from sticking to the inside of the bottle, this will make it easier to wash when you get home. I purchased and inexpensive bottle brush which I use exclusively on my refillable water bottles and thermal containers.
Enjoy the Summer and Keep Protecting Your Digits!
June is worldwide Scleroderma Awareness Month and the majority of scleroderma patients experience Raynaud’s phenomenon secondary to scleroderma (and other AI diseases). That being said, Raynaud’s is also a primary disease affecting millions. Do you have other cold drink hacks you think could help a fellow Raynaud’s sufferer? Share in the comments section below (please no links or ads).