Winter takes a toll on everyone, especially people with ALS who can experience increased muscle cramping and tension as well as a weakened immune system. Here are some tips on how people with ALS can take care of themselves during the cold winter months.
Bundle Up and Stay Warm
People with ALS already experience stiff muscles in their hands, arm, legs and feet, with the winter months often making the situation worse. Cold weather causes muscles to contract and become tight, which can be painful. Muscles that are already weak become even more strained and have to work harder during this time of year.
The best way to combat tight muscles caused by the cold is to stay warm and keep yourself covered. Leggings and long johns underneath everyday wear can keep legs warm, along with extra layers on top like vests and sweaters.
Blankets can also provide warmth, especially for those using a power wheelchair. However, individuals with ALS should avoid using an electric blanket. Poor circulation means it can be difficult to determine when the blanket becomes too hot and can cause harm to whichever part of the body the blanket is covering. Weighted blankets would be a better alternative for staying warm.
Take Preventive Measures to Avoid Getting Sick
In addition to staying warm, people with ALS should also avoid getting sick. Not only is it a miserable feeling to catch a cold, but there are more negative health implications when you have ALS due to its effect on the respiratory system. ALS already weakens respiratory muscles and make it difficult to breathe normally and manage mucus without additional symptoms. The best way to avoid complications is taking preventive measures to keep from getting sick in the first place.
People with ALS should avoid others who are sick to decrease the chances of catching anything. Other precautions, like avoiding contact with the face and eyes and regularly washing your hands, are also important. Individuals with ALS should also get a flu shot every year before the season starts.
Certain types of food can help your health during the winter to prevent the likelihood of catching a cold. Foods high in omega-3 and vitamins C and D can help maintain the immune system. If a person with ALS does become sick, there are some steps to take next to avoid any serious difficulties. For individuals with ALS who have an increase of mucus due to the weather, an airway clearance vest can help break down and move chest congestion.
If you or someone you know has ALS, or, if you’d like to learn more about how you can support families battling the disease, please visit our website at www.alsa-stl.org.