You are standing in front of your door after a nice run, trying to unzip the pocket on your tights to get to your keys, but you just can't. Your fingers have turned into sticks with no feeling in them whatsoever. They are completely numb.
With the help of strangers, you make it inside and take off your gloves – your fingers are white, numb and actually painful. As you warm up they become even more painful and start to tingle.
How and why did this happen?
Often this is caused by weakened or blocked blood flow as a reaction to the cold. The cold causes the blood vessels to constrict. As they become narrower, the blood flow is reduced or in some extreme cases is cut off completely and that's when fingers become white (or even blue) and numb.
It can affect other areas too, like toes, nose and ears. People with Raynaud's disease have these symptoms, where the blood flow constriction can also be caused by stress, nervousness or fear. This condition can be that also an indication that something is not right with your nervous system.
How can you avoid this happening?
Well, there is the obvious: wear warm gloves and socks. It is best to avoid wearing a tight glove with an elasticated cuff as that make the glove even tighter. Make sure your fingers and wrist are covered but not squeezed.
Dress according to the weather, run warm but not hot. People with extreme symptoms could try wearing mittens. In mittens the fingers stay together and retain the heat better.
Its effectivity is not proven, but I do smear coconut oil on my face and hands when I go out running in cold.
Personally, if I change my running gloves for big warm mittens as soon as I get in from the run, socks for big woolly slippers, add another layer of clothing, and sip on a warm drink while I'm stretching, I might avoid my fingers becoming white. I don't go into the shower until the fingers have recovered. Whatever you do, never use hot water to try to warm up your fingers.
In my research I also found that taking Gingko Biloba might help. (It is often used to help memory as it increases blood flow in the brain, but blood flow is, of course, helped everywhere in the body). There was also a suggestion that a bad posture might affect the functionality of the nervous system.
Can you train yourself not to get cold fingers? This might be a subject on its own.
You can get used to cold, but that doesn't mean your body is not getting cold. Hence you could be getting into even more trouble.
There is one known man that can raise his body temperature prior to jumping into freezing water. But for us mortals, taking all the precautions is the safest way. If you're worried you might have Raynaud's contact your doctor for a consultation. For gloves, socks and other accessories, visit us :)