* This post is kindly sponsored by the companies listed at the end of this post, but all opinions are my own. *
Following on from last week's blog post about keeping cool in the summer, here are my top tips for staying warm in your wheelchair in case you are planning to travel somewhere cold this winter! Until I began using a wheelchair full time, I never realised how difficult it is to keep warm when you’re sitting still and unable to get your heart rate up; so I hope these suggestions will help you to stay a little warmer this winter:
These portable warmers can easily be placed in your shoes and gloves on a cold day, as they typically stay warm for over 6 hours! You can even buy reusable warmers that reactivate in boiling water; but due to the fact I cannot be trusted with a kettle and it isn't very convenient, I just buy a multipack of the disposable warmers. Although you must make sure they are warm before you start putting them in your shoes etc, otherwise they don’t work properly.
Similar to the warmers listed above, you can get heat patches that stick directly onto your skin. They are designed to provide up to 8 hours of soothing pain relief, yet I use them to prevent my back from seizing in the cold! Each patch is thin and discreet, making them ideal to use on the go!
Someone recently suggested getting a “haramaki” (belly wrap), because if you keep your middle warm your whole body warms very effectively. It is also easy to get on over or under clothing and more comfortable to wear than bulky layers. It also stretches with you, which is great for people sitting in a wheelchair or with less mobility!
These are great for warming up after being in the cold and are a great alternative to hot water bottles for people like myself who cannot lift a kettle filled with boiling water. You can even make your own heat pads using leftover fabric and uncooked rice; but if you are like me and cannot be trusted with a sewing machine, then you can find them in most pharmacies or online shops for a reasonable price! I actually have 4 microwavable heat packs in various sizes that I alternate on a regular basis, including a long thin one for my neck and a larger one in the shape of a panda for my tummy!
It’s common sense that if you want to stay warm then you need to wear plenty of layers. But this is easier said than done for those of us who have difficulty getting clothes on and off and/or regulating their temperature. I get so cold in the winter and need to wear lots of layers, yet as soon as I go inside a warm building I begin overheating and cannot get the layers off quick enough or without difficulty. So I decided to invest in a set of swanky compression tights and top, which not only helps with my poor circulation but they keep me SO warm and prevent me from having to wear a ridiculous amount of layers! Either way, I recommend wearing light layers, otherwise, it can be quite heavy and painful on your joints!
Again, this point may sound pretty self-explanatory but finding a comfy, waterproof coat should be a winter staple for everyone! Although as a manual wheelchair user I often found my lovely winter coat getting caught in my wheels, which is inconvenient if it is wet and muddy outside and you are away from home because you are then stuck with a dirty coat for the duration of your trip! Because of this, I now try to find coats and jackets that stop at the waist and have a drawstring/elasticated band at the bottom! I have also found coats that have an opening at the back so you don’t even have to get in and out of your wheelchair to put it on!
Just like pushing a children's pushchair, people pushing a wheelchair can struggle to keep their hands warm! Therefore, I suggest getting a set of mittens designed to clip around the handles on a pushchair, as they will also work perfectly on wheelchair handlebars! I then decided to try using these mittens on the handlebars of my Firefly Powered Wheelchair Attachment, as I was struggling to use the controls in the winter once my hands seized up! I am pleased to report they worked perfectly and have attracted a lot of attention from people using mobility scooters, so it is worth looking into getting a pair of these fleece-lined gloves with waterproof lining that attach to your handlebars either with a set of poppers or a simple drawstring!
Keeping your hands warm isn’t always easy, yet I find it difficult to wear super padded thermal gloves or mittens as it makes things such as self-propelling, opening a drink or using your phone much harder! After lots of complaining and an endless supply of heat packs, Felix bought me a pair of North Face E-Tip Gloves for Christmas, made out of stretchy fleece with full touchscreen-compatibility and gripped areas that are perfect for gripping the wheels on my wheelchair! Because they are a slim fit, you can comfortably put another set of gloves or mittens on top if needed without having to worry about your fingers freezing once you take the outer layer off to use your phone!
I would highly recommend getting a face mask with filtered technology from the Cambridge Mask Company for anyone with a weakened immune system, allergies or breathing difficulties such as asthma. I often instantly begin to struggle with my breathing when going out in the winter months, no matter how many preventative treatments and medications I add into my routine! I also have a weakened immune system, so going out in the height of flu season can quickly result in lengthy hospital admissions. However, these masks have a unique triple filter system that protects your from bacteria and viruses, along with taking the edge off the cold air on those cold winter mornings! These masks are also fashion-friendly, comfortable to wear, easy to adjust and suitable for the whole family!
There are so many different options on the market and personal style and needs will play a big part in deciding which one you is right for you. Either way, I highly recommend investing in one because they come in extremely handy! To prevent my legs from seizing in the cold I have tried using various styles of blankets, which can be uncomfortable to sit on and less than ideal in the rain. I have also tried various wheelchair cosy’s over the years in the hope of keeping my legs warm, yet I struggled to find one that didn’t catch on my wheels and rip, one that didn’t make me slide off my seat due sitting on cheap waterproof material and one that didn’t snap within minutes of attaching it to your wheelchair!
Then I discovered BundleBean Wheelchair Cosy’s that you can secure without getting out of your wheelchair, unlike the other cosy’s on the market that leaves you feeling like you are sitting in a sleeping bag! The design is really simple and can be fitted to your wheelchair in a matter of seconds, by placing the elasticated bottom around the footplate and pulling it upwards to your waist. You then put two velcro straps around your waist, but extra velcro straps are available around the leg rest area if needed. These fleece-lined, waterproof cosy’s also fit into a small drawstring bag that can easily be attached to the handle of your wheelchair. Best of all, they come in a variety of funky designs so you can pick something that keeps you warm and reflects your personality! You can also fit several layers underneath if needed, which is particularly useful for manual chair users that don’t have leg rests as the wind can still catch the back of your legs.