Despite what you might do to keep warm this winter, hands and feet tend to feel the brunt of the extreme cold. Poor circulation to your extremities means that your body can’t always keep your toes and fingers warm while keeping your core nice and toasty.
Those with diabetes, circulation problems, or those who just tend to spend a lot of time outdoors in the winter are more likely to experience frostbite (a severe injury of the skin; signs and symptoms include tingling, numbness, changes in the colour and texture of the skin, and loss of feeling altogether, and can result in gangrene if not treated), and other cold-weather ailments, such as chilblains (painful swelling and itching of the skin, usually on the hands and feet when exposed to cold) and frostnip (a milder injury caused by exposing skin to cold weather, characterized by red, numb and tingly skin).
There are many things you can do to help avoid these cold weather injuries:
- Ease up on your caffeine intake — although a hot coffee or tea might seem like the perfect way to keep warm outside, the caffeine constricts blood vessels, leading to a greater chance of experiencing frostnip, chilblains and frostbite on your feet. If you’re craving something warm to keep toasty, have a nice cup of hot soup instead.
- Wear proper fitting winter boots (if they’re too tight, they can decrease circulation, leading to cold feet), and wear warm socks. Podiatrist Chris Hastings offers cold feet socks at his downtown Toronto foot clinic to help you keep from suffering these painful cold weather ailments.
- Exercise to keep your blood moving. Walking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are all great winter activities that can help increase circulation to your feet.
If you do suspect that you’ve come down with frostnip, chilblains or frostbite on your feet or hands, get inside as quickly as possible. Slowly rewarm your extremities by soaking them in warm water only (never hot!), for about 10 to 15 minutes. As you’re warming your feet and hands, you will likely feel a tingling, burning sensation — this just means the blood flow is returning. If you’re experiencing increased pain, call your podiatrist for advice.
Contact podiatrist Chris Hastings to learn more about the cold feet socks offered at his Toronto foot clinic.