How To Stay Warm And Regulate Your Temperature with M.E: A Winter Survival Guide

Managing symptoms is crucial for folks with M.E., especially during the winter months when cold weather and shorter days can exacerbate symptoms and make daily activities even more challenging.

As if that wasn’t enough in itself, cold tolerance is diminished if you’re fatigued, so it often creates a bit of a negative cycle.

In this post, we’ll run through some different ways you can stay warm this winter season. We’ll discuss how to regulate your temperature (personal heating).

As always, please use whatever you think is a good idea and leave the rest.

Learn More 📜

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.), also sometimes referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), is a complex and debilitating illness that affects millions of people worldwide. It’s characterised by disregulation of the nervous, immune and endocrine systems, impaired energy metabolism, and a range of other symptoms that can significantly impact daily life.

Coming Soon: How to keep your home warm (Household)

Coming Soon: How To Deal With Winter (General)

1. Clever Clothing

Layer Up

One of the key challenges for individuals with M.E. during the winter months is finding the right balance between staying warm and avoiding overheating.

Layering clothing is an effective way to maintain body temperature while having the flexibility to remove a layer without getting immediately cold. (Unlike a thick blanket or space heater where the options are ‘on’ or ‘off!)

Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from the skin, followed by insulating layers such as jumpers (sweaters) or fleeces, and finish with a thin blanket or snuggie (I’m still trying to convince myself to get once of these!). This allows for easy adjustment of clothing to regulate body temperature.

Choose the right fabrics and materials

Natural fibres such as wool and cotton are excellent choices as they provide insulation while allowing the skin to breathe. Avoid synthetic materials that can trap moisture and cause discomfort.

Additionally, using accessories such as hats, scarves, and gloves (full or fingerless) can provide added warmth without adding bulk to clothing. Who cares if you’re indoors? Your comfort is more important.

Cost:

Can be spread out over time as you find what works best and invest in quality items.

Difficult for:

Folks with limited mobility (especially in the arms) or touch sensitivity.

2. Electric Blanket / Mattress Pads

Electric blankets tend to be pretty energy efficient, and are designed to provide consistent warmth. This is great if you have a ‘happy temperature’ that you manage best at.

The downside of this method is that body temperature naturally fluctuates while sleeping, which means what’s fine during the day might be too much at night and cause discomfort. It’s also personally localised, so if you need to go and use the loo at any point, getting out of bed might be quite a shock to the system!

Cost:

Electric blankets tend to run from around £30+ depending on size and specs. Mattress pads are a bit more expensive than this depending on the bed size (and specs required). Then there’s also the cost of the electricity itself.

Difficult for

Individuals with high electricity tariffs, or folks who need different temperature regulation on different parts of their body. Folks who may struggle with incontinence should also steer clear of this suggestion as they’re often difficult to wash. Also, those who are bedbound may find the mattress pads become quickly uncomfortable as they can be temperature-changed, but not removed to different parts of the bed.

Over To You

Do you use an electric blanket or mattress pad? Let us know what you have and what you think of it in the comments box below!

2.5 Wearable Heated Clothing

It’s point 2.5 because it’s kind of like the love-child of the previous two points.

While heated clothing for your core (e.g. hoodies, gillets and suchlike) are becoming more popular, it’s the extremities where this sort of thing can really help. From socks to plug-in slippers, to gloves with pouches for heated inserts, these can give the ‘layers’ an extra heat boost. In many cases, you can even turn the heated feature on and off, which means that you wouldn’t also need to purchase ‘normal’ gloves and fluffy socks in addition, then spend time swapping them around if the temperature dips during the day.

Cost

Smaller items such as heated gloves can range from around £50 to an eye-watering/shocking £300. Prices for socks are similar, and other clothing often runs more expensive.

Difficult for

Folks with touch sensitivity, those who are unable to independently remove layers if they become uncomfortable, and individuals on a small budget.

Remember 📌

Because temperature regulation is often more difficult for folks with chronic illness, having options for ‘personal heating’ is likely to not only be more cost-effective than trying to warm up a whole living space, but will also stop any hot-running carers (-raises hand-) from sweating into a puddle in the corner. There’s less chance of having to play ‘musical thermostat’ where no-one wins.

3. Hot Water Bottles & Wheat Bags

Easily one of the best investments we’ve made is ‘The Owls’. While you can obviously also use a hot water bottle to warm up the bed or seating area, we prefer this microwavable wheat bag (*) for a number of reasons.

  • Super simple to use and store
  • No chance of me burning myself as I’m prepping it
  • No chance of leaking hot water everywhere
  • Doesn’t degrade/rot over time
  • Wonderful (gentle) lavender smell
  • Nice on the senses due to the gentle sound and texture
  • Washable covers
  • Many different designs and sizes
  • We often say “Should I microwave the owls?” with a completely straight face
  • It also works in the freezer, so also perfect for the summer months, too.
A microwavable heat pack (cute owl design) in the microwave

I also have it on good authority (my nana) that it’s possible to buy these wheat pads with removable/changeable outer designs, too. 🦉

Note: Do not use a hot water bottle and an electric blanket together as there may be danger of electrocution if the water from the bottle spills onto the blanket. Also, fill the hot water bottle with hot water, not boiling water, and leave a small air pocket at the top.

Cost

Starting at around £5. (The one in the pic/the link was roughly £15.

Difficult for

Individuals who may not be able to keep going to the kitchen to refill/reheat throughout the day/evening. The wheat bags can also sometimes be a little on the heavy side when laid in one place for extended periods of time.

4. Comforting Meals & Warm Drinks

There’s nothing quite like a wonderful hot soup (or cocido!) in winter. A hot, wholesome meal or a mug of cocoa can make you feel warmer as you’re eating, but can also actually increase your body temperature as your metabolism works to break down fat, caffeine and protein.

Remember 📌

For some people with severe or very severe M.E, some of the following suggestions are likely to not be as useful. This is because while the actual warmth of the food will help you to feel warmer for a short while, the protein/fat/fibre content may take more energy than your metabolism can handle, causing increased fatigue or even a crash.

Proteins are harder to digest than carbs or fats, and an intensely protein-rich meal can help warm you up. A study found that meat-based protein requires more energy to break down than plant-sourced protein, such as soy.

Another fantastic thing about ‘winter meals’ is that they’re usually more straightforward to batch cook and save for a second, third and even fourth serving.

  • Meats are often rich in iron and B vitamins, which can also boost your iron.
  • Bananas have plenty of B vitamins and magnesium, which support thyroid and adrenal gland health, (which help regulate body temperature).
  • Black beans and ginger (not necessarily at the same time!) both have ‘vasodilating’ properties. Basically, this helps to increase blood flow which helps to keep you warmer in colder weather.

A 2018 study found that ginger increased body temperature just ten minutes after consuming ginger tea and that it kept the participants warm for longer than other hot beverages. Ginger tea is also (apparently) soothing for the tummy.

Anything can be a soup, puree or a broth if you believe hard enough (and have an adequate blender – although do be aware of noise sensitivities!).

For non-crashy metabolism increases, this is where whole grains such as oats (which are high in slow-break-down bran and fiber) come in. Preventing spikes in blood sugar helps to reduce crashes and won’t lead to a ‘hot flush, cold snap’ effect once you stop eating.

Note: Pro Tip: If you’re cooking for someone with severe chronic illness and you know that they often get tired while eating but everyone is fed up with soup, try cutting up the food before presenting it to them. This includes things like pasta if you’re having a carbonara (one of Laura’s favourites!) And cut yours up too. That way you can both enjoy the same thing, without feeling embarrassed or babied. Also, it saves on washing up – win-win!)

5. Space Heaters

These devices offer focussed bursts of warmth, and can combine efficiency and flexibility against the cold.

Space heaters are designed to provide warmth exactly where you need it, which means these compact devices deliver an instant heat boost to their immediate surroundings. They’re especially beneficial for those who find it challenging to maintain an even body temperature, but who may not be able to tolerate layered clothing.

Just like heated clothing for extremities, space heaters come in various forms. There are ceramic heaters, radiant heaters, and even oil-filled radiators. Each type has its own advantages, from quick heating to silent operation, to energy efficiency, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your needs. They can help you save on energy costs by heating only the areas you’re using, eliminating the need to warm up the entire house (which also helps to reduce that game of ‘musical thermostat’ we mentioned earlier).

Many modern space heaters come equipped with adjustable thermostats and timers. This means you can customise the heat output to your preference, ensuring you stay comfortable without overheating. Some models even have remote controls for added convenience, allowing many people with moderate to severe M.E. their own heating independence.

Cost

The cost of space heaters can vary widely, depending on their features and capabilities. Basic models can be quite affordable, starting at around £20 to £50, while more advanced units with additional features can range from £100 to £300.

Difficult for

Individuals with young children or pets. Those with reduced mobility may also find some larger models difficult to move around. Also to note, is that while electric space heaters do not produce harmful emissions, they can affect indoor air quality by drying out the air. Individuals with respiratory issues may need to use a humidifier in conjunction with the heater to maintain comfortable humidity levels, especially in smaller spaces.

6. Humidifiers

Winter air tends to be dry, which can exacerbate symptoms for those with M.E.

Dry air can intensify fatigue, lead to increased sensitivity to temperature fluctuations, and contribute to the discomfort of already fragile skin. Some studies even suggest that drier air makes it easier to catch airborne viruses like the flu.

By adding moisture to the air, humidifiers help alleviate these challenges. Adequate humidity levels can ease breathing, soothe irritated airways, and minimise the risk of skin dryness or itchiness. This not only enhances overall comfort but also contributes to the well-being of individuals dealing with severe M.E. or Long Covid.

Remember 📌

Humidifiers can also help with sleep quality, since dry air can lead to snoring and congestion. We’re on the lookout for a good humidifier here at Casa Cayack (Cayuela/Slack), which should help Laura to sleep better as my (very infrequent, very soft!) snoring might become a thing of the past!)

Cost

Basic models can start at approximately £20 to £50, while more advanced units with additional settings may range from £50 to £200+.

Difficult for

Cleaning and maintaining (filling) the humidifier may pose challenges for those with limited energy or mobility. Caregivers and support systems may need to assist with these tasks. For individuals on a tight budget, the initial cost of a humidifier and ongoing expenses such as distilled water (if relevant) may require additional financial planning.

7. Cuddles

Consensual snuggling with a loved one really can help to keep you warm. Especially when paired with a blanket, the heat lost via your metabolism (as you maintain body temperature) will cause the space under the blanket to heat more quickly and to a greater degree (no pun intended!) Those with a pet such as a dog, cat, rabbit etc, may also feel the benefits if they’re curled up close.

Cost

Nope, my wife might read this – I’m not falling into that trap! 😉

Difficult for

Folks with touch-sensitivity (although sharing a larger blanket without actually touching will also glean some of the benefits).

Wrapping Up (Conclusion)

Managing chronic illness symptoms during winter months is crucial for anyone with M.E, Long Covid, Fibromyalgia, or myriad other health challenges.

There are many ways to keep warm and safe in winter across a range of methods, price points and energy-usages. If one thing doesn’t seem to work, move onto the next most relevant and go from there.

Over To You!

Is there anything on the list you want to try? Anything that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments box below. 🙂

* Note: This post is not sponsored but contains affiliate links to items we have purchased and currently use here at home. This means we earn a small commission from any purchases made through these links, at no extra cost to you. Any small amount we make from this site goes back into its maintenance and upkeep.

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