Keep Your Feet Warm to Dodge the FLU this Winter, and Avoid Potentially Serious Health Risks

Keeping your feet warm during the winter months isn’t just important for good foot health and comfort, it’s also important to good overall health. Foot specialists say cold feet can weaken your immune system and can also cause problems with certain health conditions such as diabetes. Wearing appropriate footwear during the winter months, especially when participating in outdoor winter activities, can help prevent sickness and injury.

Overall Body Warmth

The feet have a huge impact regarding how warm we feel. The feet, just like the hands, have a large surface area and a lot of blood cells. Also, because the feet are at the end of our limbs and do not consist of a lot of muscle, they’re prone to cooling faster than other parts of our body. By warming up the feet, we can quickly warm up the rest of the body, helping to keep us comfortable when we’re out in the cold.

Immune System Health

Researchers have recently linked cold feet to immune system problems. People with cold feet were found to have weaker immune response, making them more susceptible to infection and illness. Research conducted in 2005 found that subjects were 30 percent more likely to come down with the flu if their feet were cold for 20 minutes or more during flu season. There’s a simple reason for this – when the feet are cold, blood vessels in the feet constrict, resulting in reduced blood flow. Reduced blood flow results in reduced white blood cell delivery, and, as white blood cells are the immune system’s primary way of dealing with infection, reduced performance on their part results in a weakened ability to fend off illness.

Diabetes & Winter Foot Care

If you are a diabetic, it is especially important to take good care of your feet. Diabetics are at elevated risk for developing major foot problems. These problems often start as minor problems that go overlooked and eventually develop into serious health conditions. Foot conditions related to diabetes account for nearly a quarter of all hospital admissions related to the disease. About 15 percent of diabetics will develop a foot ulcer, and about 3 percent will eventually need to have a foot, toe, or leg amputated.

In cold weather conditions, diabetics need to carefully monitor the health of their feet. They should check for any scratches, cuts, changes in skin color, or corns or calluses. These conditions may heal, but they can also lead to a variety of problems, such as skin infections and ulcers, and may even require amputation.

When choosing winter footwear, be sure to pick shoes that keep your feet warm and which provide adequate comfort. Diabetics should avoid shoes that are too tight, as this can restrict blood flow to the feet. They should also avoid shoes that lock in moisture and be sure that their socks also help them avoid excessive moisture. Foot specialists advise wearing wool socks with polypropylene stockings underneath to avoid excessive moisture build-up.

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