Are your feet ready for winter?
With ANZAC day behind us, we can’t deny the inevitable for much longer… winter is just behind the corner. Soon we’ll be switching our thongs for our Ugg boots. Those who can, ‘vote with their feet’ and head north for winter. If that’s you, have a safe journey; see you in the spring. For those of us left behind, hibernation may be tempting. And to some extent a lot of us do, venturing out only when absolutely necessary. But come on, that’s not living, winter… let’s do this….
As a mum of young children, one of the big challenges of winter is Saturday morning soccer. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy this ritual as much as anyone, but by about mid-June enthusiasm starts to waver. Admit it, there’s fun in standing around in the cold especially when it starts to affect your feet.
Chilblains are itchy red patches which occur as an abnormal response to the cold. They may occur independently or as a manifestation of systemic disease. They most commonly affect children and the elderly.
So, if you are neither a grey nomad nor a bear, what can be done to keep your feet warm this winter and avoid potentially unpleasant sequalae? The first thing I would advise is to focus on keeping warm in general. Wearing thermal underwear including long johns, and wearing a hat helps to reduce heat loss. Preserving your bodies heat will help keep the blood warm to the extremities. So, put away your skirts and stockings. It’s time for pants and a beanie.
Dress for the cold
When enjoying the great outdoors, the feet need to be kept dry and well insulated. It is important to choose socks made of natural materials which help the feet to breath. Excess perspiration or moisture is undesirable as it causes increased heat loss. Woollen socks are preferable to cotton, but make sure they are not too tight around the ankles as this will restrict blood flow. Choose footwear that has a thicker sole to provide some insulation. Footwear should be adequately roomy as to allow for thicker winter socks whilst not increasing pressure on the toes. Any pressure points can increase the risk of chilblains.
Now you are appropriately attired, its time to get outside and get moving. Sitting around watching James Bond re runs might be oh so very appealing, but it is doing nothing for your metabolism or circulation. A brisk 20 minute walk each day can work wonders for boosting the circulation. If your capacity to exercise is very limited, at least get your feet and legs moving. From the comfort of your arm chair draw circles with your feet and pump your feet up and down to move your ankles. Repeat this every 20 minutes or so throughout the day.
After all that fresh air and exercise, you will be needing to eat. An adequate diet is an essential element to keeping warm. Not really a problem for most of us, but for the elderly, or chronically sick, malnutrition and weight loss can pose a real problem. Having a healthy layer of body fat helps to insulate against the cold. Thin people tend to suffer the cold a lot more than those of us more amply proportioned.
The toxins in cigarettes, especially carbon monoxide, causes narrowing of the blood vessels. If blood flow to the muscles and liver is reduced, heat distribution through out the body will be adversely affected. Smoking causes peripheral vascular disease leading to reduced blood flow to the feet and toes. In severe cases this can lead to gangrene and amputation. Yet another good reason to quit.
So, to avoid cold feet this winter, wrap up warm, exercise regularly, and eat well. (Or head to Queensland!) If you are concerned about your feet, or have painful chilblains, book in to see one of our podiatrists who can give more specific advice based on your specific needs. It may also be worthwhile consulting with your GP to discuss a medication review.