Raynaund’s Disease: Outdoor Weather Tips

One of the advantages of living with an inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis for many years is you start to figure things out.   About two years after my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis in 2004, I experienced my first episode of raynaund’s disease.  Even with gloves on, my fingers looked like hotdogs and I had an extreme urgency to get out of the cold as quickly as I could.  The experience was beyond scary.

It took me a while to figure out how to live with Raynaund’s disease, but I think for the most part, I’ve got it figured out.   With the following steps I have been successful in maintaining my daily walks each and every day no matter what Chicago’s winters decide to dish out.

The key is to stay warm.  If you are warm from head to toe, it makes it more difficult for the hands and feet to get cold and that is the goal.  Don’t let them get cold!!!

  • Keep your head warm.  We were told growing up that if your head is warm, you will be warm. I never knew how true this was until I was hit with Raynaund’s.   I know women especially shy away from hats, but find several you love and make them your friends.  I always have a winter headband and hat with me because a hat doesn’t seem to keep my ears quite warm enough and like my fingers and toes, they scream in pain when cold. On daily walks when I will be out for about 40-45 minutes, I really layer my head.  I start with a face mask, followed by a head band, and finally covered by a heavy duty hat.  It isn’t pretty, but getting outside and moving is worth it!   
  • Wear layers.  You can always take things off if too hot, but once you are cold, it takes forever to warm up.  Besides my layered headwear as mentioned in #1, I layer my upper body.  I start with a cotton undershirt, then a hoody, and finally a quality winter coat.
  • Buy a nice pair of lined pants.  I have a pair from Eddie Bauer that I basically lived in last winter with the extreme cold temperatures.
  • Invest in a boots/shoes that are intended for outdoors.  I fought this for a long time but once I bought my Ugg boots, I knew they were priceless.
    So warm inside.  I also like that
    they are  rugged for snowy days.

     Not only are they roomy for my wonky feet, but they keep my feet 100% warm.  I don’t even need socks!

  • Buy a variety of gloves – I keep a pair of gloves in every coat/jacket, two pairs in the car, in my purse, and even next to the dumbbells,  (Those things can be cold when you first handle them.)
  • Just a few of my gloves!


  • Invest in some gadgets.  My husband bought this little gadget for me last winter at Eddie Bauer’s. It is nice, but you have to make sure it is charged.  I also keep a couple of packets of HotHands in my purse.  
  • Take advantage of belly fat.   This is the time of year that you want to be thankful for the roll of fat that has accumulated on your belly.  If all the above steps have failed me, I am not embarrassed to say that I stick my hand under my shirt and let the warmth of my belly warm my hands up. (Sorry, no pictures!)
  • Hot/Cold Showers – To keep the circulation going, I take hot/cold showers several times a week.  2-3 minutes of really hot water followed by a minute of really cold water.  Repeat.  Not environmentally friendly, I agree. 
  • Expose your face and hands to the sun when possible during the winter to make sure you are still absorbing some vitaimin D.   

It did take me several years of accumulating my winter gear because staying warm can be expensive.  But now that I have it all together, it makes a world of difference in my outdoor experiences.  In the past, I reduced my winter walk distance and avoiding outdoor fun with my family in fear of my hands, feet, and ears getting cold.  No more!  

Good luck this winter.  Keep warm. Don’t let Raynaund’s keep you inside.  

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