Alcohol and personal warmth
September 16, 2008 7:00 AM   Subscribe

I am a person who always feels cold in the winter. Even if I bundle up at home in the evening with a sweater, long underwear, socks and slippers, I still feel cold, and then also sweaty and clammy. The one thing that addresses this problem quickly and effectively is a shot or two of whisky (or other alcohol), but that can't be the only solution, can it?

It's not a problem in the daytime when I'm more active, but evenings are difficult. We keep our house at a temperature that's pleasing to everyone else, but it's too cold for me.

I know there shouldn't be any problem with a drink or two in the evening, and there may even be some benefit. But based on my personal history, I'm concerned about these two evening drinks becoming a half-dozen evening drinks and I don't need that.

Is there something else that can produce a similar internal warming effect without producing the same worry? Any ideas?
posted by OilPull to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Vitamins? Do you get enough iron?
You could always run up and down a flight of stairs, that'd help and is good for you too.
posted by bink at 7:11 AM on September 16, 2008

Best answer: When I lived somewhere that had no central heating, I felt the same way you did. The only thing that actually got my core (for lack of a better word) warm was to take a hot shower or bath first, then bundle up.
posted by Liosliath at 7:14 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, I'd agree about taking a hot shower. My high school used to not turn on the heating until November, no matter there were several weeks in October where I'd come home from school frozen. I'd jump right in the shower, get my core temperature back up, and then budle up in pajamas and a robe.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:16 AM on September 16, 2008

I have the same issue with cold as you ... the only thing I have found that works is a good space heater. Luckily, nowadays they are made so that they don't gobble as much electricity.
posted by Melismata at 7:19 AM on September 16, 2008

Alcohol dilates skin capilaries, increasing surface blood flow (and making you feel warmer) at the expense of core body temperature. It's very effective at this and is probably perfect for your situation. (Not such a good idea for critical hypothermia where core body temperature must be conserved.) I can't think of any drugs with a similar effect that are not also stimulants (so, not so good for night-time use), so if alcohol is out, physical approaches are best.

Some studies done a few decades ago (part of some naval diving group, ISTR) suggest that going in/out of a cold/hot shower can help acclimatize you to cooler temperature. Or just drive you insane. As a photographer, I suffered from cold hands in the winter for a long time until I did a few rounds of hot/cold water shocks to my hands. It's not so bad now, especially since I try to keep my hands uncovered on the shoulder seasons so they're used to the cold.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:24 AM on September 16, 2008

Niacin causes vasodilation too. Sorry, no drink suggestions with it though. A lot of the energy drinks seem to have it but they'd probably wake you up in the evening.
posted by jwells at 7:38 AM on September 16, 2008

For the sweaty, clammy part of your question, avoid wearing acrylic next to your skin. Acrylic sweaters always make me sweaty and itchy unless I wear a cotton long-sleeve turtleneck underneath.
posted by marsha56 at 7:40 AM on September 16, 2008

I have a similar problem; usually drinking hot tea (more available in the office than bourbon) works well.
posted by matildaben at 7:41 AM on September 16, 2008

You can also buy an electric throw blanket like these to keep you warm while watching TV or reading. An electric blanket in a bed size would be really bulky for the couch, but the throw sizes are just right.
posted by handful of rain at 8:06 AM on September 16, 2008

My mother always told me to do fifty jumping jacks when I complained of being cold.

I like ginger tea (powdered ginger in tea bags, or just drop some chunks of fresh or candied ginger in boiling water) in the winter -- it seems to have a more lasting internal warming effect than standard tea.
posted by nonane at 8:15 AM on September 16, 2008

I'm much like you, and since I grew up somewhere with relatively mild winters (Texas) and now live somewhere with relatively cold winters (Colorado), being chilled for eight months out of the year is something I'm still getting used to.

I can second the "hot shower when you get home," approach - I find it helps my body adjust to the temperature of my apartment, especially if I throw on some warm and comfortable clothes afterwards. Also, consider wearing bedroom slippers (or some other form of warm footwear) when at home. I tried this out for the first time this past Winter and found it made a big difference. In fact, I just started wearing them again this week, now that it's cooling off so much at night.

Strategically placed space heaters can be a big help, too. I keep one in my bedroom and run it for a half hour or so before I go to bed. I also keep another one in a small sitting area I tend to spend a lot of time in when I'm at home. There's no need to run them all the time - just use them when you're in the area and need some extra warmth.

Finally, I find it helps to just keep a blanket around to bundle up in if I'm going to be spending a lot of time sitting in one place (e.g., reading or watching a movie). Warm clothes + slippers + space heater + blanket + glass of scotch (whoops, how did that get in there?) = nice and toasty.
posted by jal0021 at 8:26 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have Raynaud's Syndrome, and therefore sometimes feel cold at temperatures that are perfectly comfortable for most people. (Air conditioning also sets it off.)

Nthing hot showers/baths, ginger, and electric throw blankets. Adding food with chili peppers and keeping your feet warm.
posted by desuetude at 8:30 AM on September 16, 2008

Hot beverages throughout the day really do help. I drink hot tea all day, but my best remedy is to saute a little garlic in a saucepan, then add tomato juice and chili oil.

For me, the problem has always seemed to be connected to low circulation -- my toes can turn whitish blue just sitting on the couch for an hour if I'm not paying attention. You might mention it to a doctor if things are really bad, as it can be a sign of diabetes.

Other things that have worked well, particularly when done regularly:
-- cayenne pepper in my socks (really!)
-- vigorous exercise for 5 minutes, such as push ups
-- hot bath
-- wearing knee socks and fingerless gloves all day
-- eating at regular intervals
posted by susanvance at 8:34 AM on September 16, 2008

Best answer: If its really so bad that heavy clothing with long underwear and a blanket doesnt help in a heated home then you should talk to your doctor. There's about a dozen different conditions that can cause cold intolerance and a couple which are serious.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:54 AM on September 16, 2008

I have to take iron as well as vitamin b12 as I found out last winter I was anemic. That's a simple blood test. Unfortunately it can take several months on iron and b12 to get iron levels up, but I'm already noticing I'm warmer this year as fall sets in. I also wear a scarf when cold...scarf and wool socks do more for me than all of the other bundling up I do.

And dittos on all of the comments above.
posted by mumstheword at 9:02 AM on September 16, 2008

Eat a *lot* more healthy fat, and exercise.
posted by zeek321 at 9:25 AM on September 16, 2008

Sorry, don't eat the fat to put on insulating weight. I mean that fat burning is thermogenic, and it's one of the ways that the body regulates its temperature. If you eat more calories, your body will burn those calories for heat, and you maintain your temperature better from the inside out. = If you don't have allergies, things like butter, cream, avocado, etc., etc.
posted by zeek321 at 9:28 AM on September 16, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Lots of great suggestions here.
posted by OilPull at 9:44 AM on September 16, 2008

Best answer: I have this problem a lot, too, and I've found some combination of the above suggestions (electric blanket, space heater, tons of tea (herbal, in the evenings) usually makes life more bearable. One other thing I found works well, especially for my feet, is hot water bottles. You know, the old fashioned red rubber things that you fill with hot water. Then stick it under a blanket with your feet, and they warm up in no time.

I stopped doing that after a while, though, because I fidget a lot and managed to puncture the bottle while it was near a subwoofer, which resulted in buying a new subwoofer. However, if you're not the sort of fidget a lot, or you just use it long enough to warm the blankets and your feet up, and then take it out, it might work for you.
posted by Caduceus at 10:11 AM on September 16, 2008

Seconding the trip to the doctor to rule out anything health-related.

If it doesn't turn out to be health-related, you could try wearing a good woolly knitted hat (toque type, not baseball cap type). When I moved to my current insanely cold location, I quickly learned of the power of hats. Someone told me once that putting a hat on your head is like putting a tea cozy on a teapot--it keeps the heat in.

You might feel weird wearing a hat indoors at first, but speaking as someone who used to live in a poorly insulated basement suite with no access to the heat controls, it's worth it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:49 AM on September 16, 2008

hgg beat me to the hat! A little fleece beanie should do the job nicely.
For the feetses, you can google for down-socks or down-booties, ideally the ones with grippy-soles. Thick ski-socks are made with those kids style grippy-soles as well.
Again with the fleece, a small throw for the sofa or wherever you are.
Instead of a traditional hot-water-bottle, you can get microwaveable versions, either gel-based or filled with corn or similar (they are very shapable, throw them over your shoulders etc).
If you are cold at other times too, consider long underwear in a wicking microfiber. "Base Layer" and "Layer 1" are phrases to keep in mind.

Finally, for that instant heat, if you don't have the energy for a shower, run yourself over with a hairdryer, blow it up under your shirt. Don't burn yourself.
posted by Iteki at 11:26 AM on September 16, 2008

I have a similar issue. Last winter I typically wore three layers of socks around the house, with slippers, and was still freezing half the time. I've found 2 things that help a lot:

- wearing a neck gaiter. This is a piece of outdoors gear that is typically wool or fleece, & fits around your neck. I prefer this to a turtleneck because turtlenecks feel restrictive to me, and if you find yourself overheating, it's easy to just pull off the gaiter. Also, a gaiter is marginally more stylish than wearing a winter hat indoors but has a similar warming effect. (If you're not sure if this will work for you, try wearing a scarf indoors for a while. That's what I used to do, but it kept trailing in my soup.)

- heat bags. Basically, this is the equivalent of the hot water bottle, without the potential mess. I make them by sewing some flaxseed (holds heat well) inside 2 layers of fabric, pop them in the microwave for 2 minutes, and either apply them directly to cold feet or hands, and/or put them in my beg to warm it before I climb in. They stay piping hot for about five minutes, and warm for much longer. I'm sure you can buy commercial versions filled with rice or whatever.
posted by dreamphone at 11:36 AM on September 16, 2008

Down-filled booties make a huge difference, in my experience. No booze required. No regular slippers, even shearling, have ever come close. A hat also helps, but the booties have the greatest effect for me.

Also, a mattress heater (a mattress pad with heating coils, like an electric blanket but it goes under you rather than over you) is a wonderful thing. Turn it on when you get home (they only draw about 100 watts so they heat up pretty slowly) and by bedtime your bed will be delightfully toasty. If you like to read or watch TV in the evening, you can do this while snuggled in your pre-warmed bed. (good book + warm bed = bliss, I tell ya!)
posted by Quietgal at 11:38 AM on September 16, 2008

Oh, and one other thought: find a replacement for the booze that is warm, a little more flavorful than tea, and less fattening than cocoa (every night). Last winter I discovered that although I typically despise my rice drink warmed, with a little blackstrap molasses added to it after heating, it was creamy, satisfying, and warming. Again, not something you'd want to drink every night, but I think that at times when you're trying to break a potentially addictive habit, it can be helpful to temporarily replace it with something else desirable, to ensure success.
posted by dreamphone at 11:48 AM on September 16, 2008

Ugg boots, whatever your fashion opinions on them are the warmest things I've ever had on my feet.
posted by Augenblick at 3:55 AM on September 17, 2008

Seriously, wear a stocking cap on your head. That's where most heat seems to be lost. Also, it's not a nuisance, like wearing lots of blankets around you and stuff. You forget you have it on after a while, and it doesn't get in the way of anything, even glasses or headphones.

I learned this the hard way, in Canada.
posted by peggynature at 2:42 PM on September 17, 2008

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