The Changing Seasons (How To Cope With Chronic Illness In The Colder Months)

As the seasons change, the sometimes drastic shifts in weather conditions can have a huge impact on people, (especially those with chronic illnesses). Which can affect them mentally, with conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) to physically with the rapid weather changes causing differing degrees of widespread pain and headaches. Many patients with chronic illnesses such as Hyperthyroidism. Multiple Sclerosis and Fibromyalgia can find it hard to regulate their own body temperature meaning that the changing seasons for them is more challenging than for most. As they are unsure from day to day how their body will react to temperature and weather conditions

Autumns Here

Autumn is truly upon the Northern Hemisphere, the nights are getting longer, the temperature is getting lower. Shops are filled with cosy jumpers, thicker warmer jackets, hats and scarves. Leaving many of us longing for comfort foods and all things snuggly. Due to the internal temperature regulation issues, some of us, myself included find the changing season difficult to cope with.

Here in Scotland as soon as we hit October 1st we were catapulted straight into cold, rain and wind. Autumn is my favourite season but I’d prefer the gradual change rather than what can happen. I love all things autumn, the colours, the smells, the flavoured coffee drinks and the warming scented candles. But the drastic drop in temperature is causing havoc on my bodies reaction to the colder weather.

Dress For Your Illness Not the Weather

Ideally I would LOVE to be wearing the oversized woolly jumpers, thick tights and winter coats, like what I’ve seen all over Pinterest, sadly due to my body’s issue with regulating its temperature thanks to chronic illness. These clothing options aren’t for me. One minute I could be aching from the cold, whereas the next I can be so warm I feel that I’m in a sauna. This means that I have to put more thought into what I wear when leaving the house.

Layering Is Key!!

Multiple thin layers is the best choice for the colder seasons. This means that if I get too warm I can easily remove one layer, rather than having to deal with being too hot and sweaty. Then if I get cold again I can put it back on. I can take an extra layer with me just in case.

Base layers are great for the colder months as they feel like a second skin. They keep you comfortable by absorbing and evaporating sweat. Possibly not the most fashionable of clothing but when living with chronic illness functionality beats fashionable.

The Right Jacket/Coat For You

When choosing the right jacket for the colder season. It is best to find one that can help shelter you from the cold, wind and rain but isn’t too bulky. Generally I will go for a waterproof jacket that can be worn with a thin fleece zipped into it or on its own. Unless it is extremely cold I’ll choose to wear my parka which has a faux fur hood. It’s not too thick but manages to protect me from the elements.

Seasonal Survival Kit

Designated bags or survival kits are a great way to be prepared for any shifts in the weather conditions. Whether it is a collection of items that are packed in a bag for when you have to leave the house or a box of items for when you are at home.

Out & About

Making sure that I have gloves, a spare pair of socks, a hat and scarf in my back is a must for the colder seasons. The cold air can cause severe pain to my hands and feet. They can become so painful that I feel like crying. Having an extra pair of socks can help warm my aching feet. Gloves that the use of touch screens are great, for when I’m wanting to use my phone or take pictures. They will protect my fingers from getting too cold and sore.

Another great item to have, especially for the times when the weather changes abruptly, where a pair of gloves aren’t helping as much. Is, heat packs. They are a great way to warm you up if you’ve been outside too long.  The ones that you snap and the liquid inside solidifies are great. They heat really quickly and you can discard them when finished. Many shops sell disposable ones too. You can get a pack of two for as little as £1. These are also great for kids to use as well. Reusable ones are more sustainable but it can be come a bit of a hassle to reset.

At Home

When it’s cold outside, nothing beats being warm in your home. This might seem really obvious but as soon you feel that you need it switch the central heating on. Before chronic illness took hold, we would wait until it was really cold outside before using the heating. However now there have been times when we had to switch it on mid September.

You Can Never Have Too Many Blankets

If turning the heating on early isn’t an option due to cost, having multiple warm blankets through your home is great for when you feel a little cold or want to snuggle. Many with chronic illnesses main wardrobe choices is pyjamas or leisure wear as it’s soft, stretchy and extremely comfortable. During the winter months flannel, fleecy options are available which are also great to wear if you are trying to save money on heating bills. They can however be a little too warm. I would normally wear the top or the bottom of the pjs with something else to prevent from being too warm and uncomfortable.

Hot water bottles have so many benefits during the colder months. Not only can they be used for warming you up but they are also great for easing chronic pain.

Over To You

Do you have an tips you swear by for helping you get through the changes in the seasons? Please leave them in the comments below.

Authors note – this post was originally published on 3rd September 2018. It has been completely updated and revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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