Person in winter gear in the middle of a forest looks at their hand covered in red welts.

Winter Worries

Brrrrrr. It’s freezing outside. Whenever the winter season comes around, I think why in the world do I not live in a warmer climate? I don’t like the cold and it is an even bigger issue with my cystic fibrosis. Having CF means always being prepared and watching out for sickness, germs, and other potential issues. However, in the winter it’s a bigger concern.

The winter season definitely affects me health-wise. Some areas of concern include:

My lungs

Lung issues are always a primary concern for me. I currently have 50% lung function, but when ill I can easily fall in the 30s range. I try to take extra care to not end up sick, but sometimes it just can’t be avoided.

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Running errands, shopping, and lifting my kid in and out of the car are all difficult on any given day. But, in the winter, it is extra difficult. Breathing in the cold air hurts my lungs and makes me cough more frequently, leading to more coughing fits. This causes me to become winded very quickly.

Being outside for any period of time is extremely difficult. Scraping the snow off my car and shoveling are impossible tasks for me. So, if it is snowing, there is a good chance I’m staying home. Which makes going about day-to-day activities much more difficult in the winter. I tend to hibernate in my home as much as possible, thankfully I work from home. If I do feel like I’m getting sick, I try to get extra sleep and do extra nebulizers. I also always call my CF clinic to give them a heads up and seek my doctor’s opinion.

CF-related arthritis

I have flare-ups throughout the year in my bones and joints, which doctors think is CF-related arthritis. With these flare-ups I get fevers, feel fatigued, and my joints freeze up. Sometimes they freeze to the point that I can barely move without excruciating pain.

I tend to get warm red spots all over my body during flare-ups too. In the winter I tend to have more flare-ups and general stiffness in my joints. The cold weather makes it harder for me to move around, which just adds another layer of difficulty to an already difficult winter season.

Exercise

Exercise is something I struggle with daily. In the summer though, I take my kiddo on walks and we play outside. We play on the playground and run around a lot more. I get way more exercise in the warmer months. I struggle to exercise in the winter. I try to add yoga and dance workouts into my daily routine. But I just don’t enjoy working out indoors as much as walking, swimming, and enjoying the sun in the summer.

Holiday wear and tear

I find during the holidays I get more worn out. Between traveling for relatives, packing everything, and running more errands (in the cold), my body struggles to keep up.

I try to counter this with extra sleep and extra sets of nebulizers, but sometimes my body is beyond tired. I try to take an “at home day” where I chill at home with my kiddo and we lay around watching movies and playing board games. Having some downtime can help my body rest and recover.

Sickness and germs

Everyone knows the winter means sneezing, coughing, and the dreaded flu season. Which means more viruses and sickness spreading around. Working in public and having kids in school/daycares makes it more difficult to avoid those harmful germs. I try to avoid as much as possible by doing the following:

  1. Washing my hands frequently
  2. My entire family gets vaccinated, getting the flu shot as early as we can
  3. Using hand sanitizer in public a lot, especially after touching keypads and doorknobs
  4. Changing clothes and showering after I have been to a doctor’s office
  5. Having my kid change into play clothes when they get home from school
  6. I frequently sanitize and clean all surfaces and common places we touch in our home, like doorknobs and light switches
  7. I make sure all my family, friends, and co-workers understand the importance of not being around me when ill

Even by doing all these steps, I can’t guarantee I won’t catch a cold, or illness. All I can do is try. But it has helped me to find the areas where I’m most susceptible and my weaknesses. Then I figure out how I can take some steps to try and protect and help myself.

Doing my best to avoid sickness is all I can ever do, even in the winter when it is harder. The winter and snow can be beautiful and especially fun for my kid(s). However, I know I personally I count down the days to spring every single year.

What are your cystic fibrosis winter and cold weather worries? Share in the comments below!

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