When the weather outside is frigid and so are you: what to use to stay warm, hydrated, and healthy

It’s 15F° with a windchill of 1F° here in Washington, DC. We’re all trying to stay warm, but my home is old and drafty. It’s a rotten situation for my various health conditions and I know it’s rotten for a lot of my friends, too. Here’s a rundown of stuff I’m relying on to keep warm, hydrated, and healthy this winter. Maybe some of these things will be helpful for you, too.

For my home:

  1. Warm mist humidifiers. I use two six liter humidifiers by Levoit. I keep one in my living room and one in my bedroom with both set on warm mist (they can also do cool mist, which is nice). They’re practically silent and they automatically shut-off when they are empty, so I can’t burn them out.
  2. Unfortunately, the two humidifiers are not quite enough for my 900 sq ft apartment, so it’s good to keep a lobster pot, such as the King Kooker 60-Quart Aluminum Boiling Pot, boiling on the stove, too. I have to keep an eye on that to make sure it doesn’t burn off all the water, but it’s worth the extra vigilance!
  3. A heated mattress pad. Mine is a six-zone, wireless, dual control, with preheat and automatic shut-off one by Sunbeam. My partners have different ideas of comfortable temperatures than I do, so being able to heat the different sides of the bed according to individual preference is important to us.
  4. An electric water kettle is great for drinking all the heated beverages possible. I use this 1.5 L glass electric kettle by Ovente. It’s purple, which is almost as nice as how fast it heats water for my tea.
  5. Sun lamps are recommended for Seasonal Affective Disorder, but in my (non-clinical) opinion, they’re great for giving yourself an extra boost when you just can’t get outside. I have this older model Bell and Howell Sunlight lamp
    which uses 27w bulbs. That doesn’t seem like much power, but I still find it helpful to use in the afternoons. (Note: I use mine in the midday to afternoon because I’m bipolar, but if you’re not bipolar, doctors recommend that you use it in the morning.)
  6. I live in an older building with windows in my apartment that are original to the building. Before I insulated my windows, it was so drafty in here that I told visitors that I had pet banshees (the howling of the wind through the spaces around the windows was intense). I used a window shrink film kit by Duck and a patio door insulator kit by 3M, along with some paper towels, regular towels, and duct tape. The paper towels were stuffed into the corners where the outdoor air was getting in, the insulation film was put in place, and then regular towels were rolled along the bottom of the patio door. The duct tape was used to help secure the film in place because it’s so cold outside that the regular tape wasn’t holding!

For keeping myself warm:

  1. Heating pads, galore! I’m using the Sunbeam heat and shoulder wrap, which has a magnet in the collar to keep the sides closed; a microwavable back wrap with collar (which can also be frozen for when I need to ice!); a hot water bottle similar to this one by HomeTop, and homemade rice rolls that can be microwaved.
  2. Snowskirts! I wear my snowskirt with nothing but tights and shorts underneath, but the snowskirt keeps me warm. These skirts are terrific if, like me, you prefer to wear layers of clothing so that overheating can be more easily managed. I bought mine in 2008 from fantasyworldheroes on Etsy, but it seems as though they stopped selling on Etsy two years ago.  Fortunately, there are other designers who make similar items, such as Skhoop of Scandinavia, who claim to have been the first to make insulated skirts (in 1999!) , heim-made, and Smart Alaska Snow Skirts. REI and Amazon also have similar products.
  3. Boots are a must in weather this cold, especially with ice, snow, and salt on the ground. I’ve had a pair of M. 373 New Rock boots since 1999. They keep my ankles from turning, and my feet warm and dry (they even survived the Radiohead flood of 2001). I swear by these boots, really. Considering mine are in great condition (and I wear them frequently) after 18 years, I think the $200 they cost was well spent. Check out the current New Rock collection here.
  4. This heated seat cushion for the car keeps my neck (my back, and… everything else) warm when I’m forced to leave the apartment.

For keeping myself hydrated and healthy:

  1. I’m staying hydrated by littering my apartment with reusable water bottles. I forget to carry mine around with me, so I tend to keep one in every room. The 40oz bottles by KleanKanteen tend to be my favorite.
  2. I get dehydrated easier than most people, likely due to having Ehlers-Danlos and POTS. Drinking water isn’t enough to keep me replenished, so I often add Nuun Vitamin and Electrolyte tablets to my water. I also take Volt by Toniiq capsules when I can’t get myself to drink water due to symptoms like migraine, nausea, sore throat, etc.
  3. Dry eyes are a frequent problem with me, particularly this winter. I have punctal plugs, but I rely on frequent use of Systane ultra lubricant drops to keep my eyes from getting scratched by my contacts.
  4. Skin care is a challenge with Ehlers-Danlos. I used to get regular eczema and urticaria flares, but a combination of products (mostly) keep my skin calm and clear. For body washing and moisturizing, I use Cetaphil Restoraderm Eczema Calming Body Wash and Cetaphil Restoraderm Eczema Calming Body Moisturizer. For hand washing, I use Puracy Natural Liquid Hand Soap in Lavender & Vanilla, and CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream for extra moisturizing on the go. My face gets washed with CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser, then I use belif’s Hungarian Water Essence or farsáli’s Unicorn Essence, followed by CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream or Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer. My feet get moisturized with Soap & Glory Heel Genius Amazing Foot Cream. I swear by Sliquid Organics Splash Balance Gentle Feminine Wash in honeydew cucumber and Jerome Stuart Nichols’ The Butters Lube to keep my lichen simplex chronicus under control without the use of steroids.
  5. This personal humidifier/steam inhaler by Veridian, combined with Breathe Blend essential oil by Healing Solutions, Rhinocort allergy nasal spray, and Ponaris nasal emollient by Jamol Laboratories, keep the inside of my nose from bleeding, cracking, drying out, and getting congested overnight. Ponaris is silicone lube for your nose; how cool is that?
  6. Though I have only very mild sleep apnea, I’ve found using a CPAP with an integrated humidifier to be very helpful. My health insurance dictates that I use the ResMed Airsense 10, but I have no complaints. I recently splurged on a SoClean 2 with an Airsense 10 adaptor to keep my CPAP’s components clean. The SoClean hasn’t arrived (FedEx says in four more days!), so I can’t yet say if I recommend it or not.

Stay warm, y’all! It’s going to be a long winter.