Cancer And Cold Weather - Tips To Help You Cope

by Jane Ashley

Winter is here and presents unique challenges for cancer patients. Let’s look at some of the potential problems that we, as cancer patients, might face this winter.

Icy Sidewalks

Falls. Chemotherapy affect some patients’ balance, making them more prone to falling. Now add in icy sidewalks, snowy parking lots, and steps, and we have a formula that might lead to a cancer patient being more likely to fall in winter. So how do we avoid falls in winter?
More lighting for outside areas of your house. With shorter winter days, you might be going to treatment early in the morning and getting home late in the evening. Improved lighting at your front and back door can help prevent winter falls.
Invest in a good pair of outdoor shoes with plenty of tread. 

Winter Boots

Make sure that your outdoor clothing still fits. Oversized sleeves or bulky coats can catch on objects leading you to fall.
Keep your shoes and cane ice-free. Invest in an ice-free tip for your cane and/or gripper sole covers for your shoes.
Make sure that the hand rails on your outdoor stairs are sturdy.
Always keep your cell phone on your person in case you fall and need help getting up — this includes even walking out to your mailbox.

If you suffer from peripheral neuropathy (see below), the loss of sensation in your feet can make you especially susceptible to falling.

Frostbite. Certain chemotherapy drugs may cause a condition known as peripheral neuropathy, a condition that causes loss of sensation in the hands and feet. The loss of sensation in your hands or feet may prevent you from feeling how cold your hands or feet are — resulting in frostbite.

Shawl Or Ruana

Hypothermia. Side effects of our treatment, including anemia, dehydration, and fatigue, contribute to cancer patients being more prone to develop hypothermia. Hypothermia is a dangerous condition when our bodies lose more heat than we can produce, causing a dangerous drop in our body temperature.

The chemotherapy drug, oxaliplatin, can cause extreme sensitivity to cold objects. Tingling and feelings like an electrical shock are common when patients touch any cold object including car door handles, metal stair railings or getting something out of the refrigerator or freezer. 

Always wear gloves if you are receiving oxaliplatin.

Dont Shovel Snow

Don’t shovel snow. No matter how tempting is it, don’t shovel snow. It’s simply not worth the risk of developing hypothermia or frostbite.

Tips to Help You Stay Warm and Comfortable

Many cancer patients seem more likely to feel cold. Even patients who are experiencing hot flashes because of treatments often report feeling cold soon after a hot flash abates. So what can we do to endure all of these cold days and nights that are coming?

Dress in layers. Wear a light-weight tee shirt as your first layer. Light-weight fleece is excellent as the second layer. Then wear the jacket of your choice. Many women use a Ruana wrap instead of a coat or on top of a jacket to provide extra warmth around your neck and shoulders. A Ruana is relatively inexpensive and is often reversible to be even more versatile.
Wear hats and gloves or mittens. Our ears and hands are very vulnerable to frostbite. Especially, if we’re out walking, hats and mittens keeps up comfortable. 

Wear A Scarf

Use a scarf. Wrap a scarf around your nose and mouth if you’re going to be outside in the extreme cold to help prevent breathing difficulties.
Wear winter-weight socks and boots or winter-weight shoes. Not only will you avoid frostbite, but you’ll feel warmer if your feet aren’t cold. Invest in a good pair of shoes with traction if you live in an area with lots of snow.
Use moisturizer on your face, hands and feet. The low humidity that we experience in winter contributes to cracked, dry skin. Add in the dry skin that treatment may cause, and you’ve got a double whammy of skin problems. Don’t forget to use lip balm too.
Stay hydrated. Getting dehydrated makes you more prone to hypothermia. Staying hydrated also helps protect your skin. Dehydration may cause dizziness — not a good thing to happen if you’re walking on snowy or icy sidewalks.
Carry an extra pair of gloves and socks. It only takes one time when our gloves or socks get wet and our hands or feet get hyper-chilled for us to realize that an extra pair of socks and gloves are life-savers. Carry them in your car or your coat pocket, if you’re going to be out all day.
Buy an oil radiator. Oil radiators are safer than other small electric heaters and keep a small area a few degrees warmer than the rest of the house. Put one by your desk or in the bathroom if your bathroom stays colder than the rest of the house.

Winter doesn’t have to be a miserable season for cancer patients. With a few precautions and warm clothing, you’ll be warm, comfortable and safe throughout the winter season.

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