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Cold Feet and Hands? 7 Tips to Keep Them Warm

Cold hands, warm heart, right? Who cares. When your fingers or toes are freezing, you just want to warm them up, stat. Here's how.

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Man in winter coat looks coldiStock/victorass88

Why your hands and feet get cold

Don’t worry if you’re always rubbing your hands together for warmth or noticing that your feet are colder than the rest of your body. “The reason our hands and feet get cold in the winter is because our body prioritizes keeping our vital organs like our heart and lungs warm,” which leads to a reduction of blood flow to the extremities, says Alyssa Tucci, RDN, nutrition manager at Virtual Health Partners in  New York City.

Table with delicious foodiStock/travenian

Eat heart-healthy foods

One way to warm up those extremities is to boost circulation, and eating for heart health—that holds the key. “Try to incorporate heart-healthy foods like fatty fish, nuts, olive oil, and fruits and veggies into your diet,” Tucci suggests. These foods work wonders for your circulation, which is essential for adequate blood flow and temperature regulation. Circulation-boosting foods include salmon, bananas, dark chocolate, and Brussels sprouts. Check out this full list of circulation-enhancing foods. Keep in mind, you’ll get ample portions of all those delicious foods as part of the Mediterranean diet.

Person wearing cozy pink socks in bediStock/saquizeta

Sleep with socks

While heading to bed with socks on your feet may not heat things up in the romance department, they can help heat you up. Even the healthiest person may need some assistance on a cold winter night, and Tucci says that socks can do the trick. Need a pair you can wear every night? Ryan Anderson, a gearhead for Backcountry suggests the Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew Sock. Find out more reasons you should wear socks to bed. If your feet need a little extra pampering, homemade foot scrubs are the perfect solution.

Person uses phone while wearing glovesiStock/mastermilmar

Wear the right kinds of gloves

Resist the temptation to scoop up those inexpensive dollar store gloves—or a fashionable pair that puts form before function—and opt for a product that’s truly going to keep your hands warm. Anderson suggests the Black Diamond Heavyweight Wooltech Glove. “Liners are great for everyday use because they are never too bulky and still give you some flexibility,” he says. “These are warm and the wool really helps with temperature regulating, and the leather palm makes sure you can still grip the steering wheel.” Check out what happens to your body when it’s freezing.

Person warming up hands on heateriStock/freer-law

Give warming gadgets a go

Indoors, you could crank up a space heater or sit in front of a roaring fire. But on the go, tech gadgets can be very effective at keeping you warm. The go-to choice for Backcountry’s Anderson is the Seirus Heat Touch Inferno glove, complete with rechargeable batteries. For toastier toes, try Lenz 4.0 Heat Socks and rcB 1200 Lithium packs, which come with USB-charged lithium batteries. Here’s how to keep your home warm while saving on heating costs.

Spice jars spilling colorful spices on tableiStock/easybuy4u

Spice things up

Add some oomph to your winter drinks and meals while increasing your warmth at the same time. Certain spices are known for their ability to increase body temperature. Check out this list of foods that boost your body heat, including ginger and green tea.

hands clasp big mug of teaiStock/portishead1

Sip on hot stuff

During the day, Tucci says it can’t hurt to sip on warm liquids like tea because it can help provide lingering surges in body temperature and more evenly distribute heat. Simply holding a warm mug can help keep fingers from getting cold, especially when you’re outdoors, like for a sports event.

runners' feet in snowy woodsiStock/georgijevic

Exercise

You know how you enter the gym feeling chilly in your tank top, and then leave sweating bullets? Tucci explains that exercise—whether it involves hitting the gym or just getting some basic movement in during the day—gets blood flowing, which in turn boosts body temperature. Exercise is also a win for keeping winter weight gain at bay.

Man cups hands in snowiStock/jaim924

When it’s more serious

If these warm-up tips have left you (still) cold, you may have Raynaud’s disease—an exaggerated cold response that affects about five percent of the U.S. population, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. This condition affects the arteries, causing fingers or toes to turn white and possibly then blue as vessels constrict. You might also experience throbbing, tingling, or a burning sensation. Usually, lifestyle changes and just being cognizant of the condition can help you control it, but in some cases, you can take medications or even have surgery to fix the problem.

“Any patients who have Raynaud’s and associated skin changes, including tightening or thickening of the skin, nail changes, or cracks and sores that don’t heal, should get checked out,” says Natalie Evans, MD, vascular specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. Cold extremities can also be a sign of more serious health problems such as lupus, scleroderma, or peripheral artery disease. They may also signal a thyroid problem; have your thyroid checked if you also have hair loss, fatigue, and/or constipation. If you notice changes such as brittle or coarse hair, fatigue, and swollen extremities that occur in conjunction with your cold hand and/or feet, contact your doctor to assess your health.

 

Sources
Medically reviewed by Michael Spertus, MD, on October 27, 2019

Jennifer Lea Reynolds
Jennifer Lea Reynolds is a journalist and advocate. Her articles on mental-health topics like ADHD, body image, relationships, and grief have been published in outlets including U.S. News & World Report, Reader’s Digest, Woman’s Day, Smithsonian magazine, Mental Floss, and The Huffington Post. She has been a featured guest on national podcasts, including Distraction and Health Check. Reynolds is the founder of The Kindness Couture, an effort dedicated to shedding cloaks of negativity and making sure kindness remains in style. From kindness in the corporate culture to easy ways to demonstrate caring acts, she is dedicated to showcasing the benefits of compassion and empathy. Motivated by her own unpleasant experiences with bullying, Reynolds also draws on research about the decline of workplace kindness. Her Facebook page, The Kindness Couture, provides more information about increasing empathy. Reynolds is the author of two children’s picture books encouraging kindness, compassion, and hope in young people—Carl, The Not-so-Crabby Crab and The Cat Who Loved the Moon. A graduate of Monmouth University, she lives in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.