Since we still need to prevent spreading the coronavirus, pre-pandemic ways to escape wintry chills may not be available: such as visiting a library, warming center or a friend’s house.
Staying warm is necessary “for a variety of health reasons” in addition to comfort, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association. For people with arthritis, stiffness “in your back and neck and sore joints do occur more in colder weather. … People who have metabolic conditions can be sensitive to the weather, like diabetes, for example, and heart disease. The more cold you are, the more stress you put on your heart.”
Despite being limited in terms of public or social alternatives, a little savvy based on our warm-blooded bodies, food, appliances, furniture, the outdoor elements and more can go a long way. Here are 25 ways to stay warm this winter — with or without indoor heating — that won’t break the bank.
1. Warm up with store-bought hand warmers, microwavable heating pads, hot water bottles or heated blankets. Following the manufacturer’s instructions and concentrating on your torso are key, said JohnEric Smith, an associate professor in the department of kinesiology at Mississippi State University. “If you warm the core you can warm the hands and feet. It is harder to warm the core by warming the hands and feet.”
Be careful that you don’t burn yourself, Benjamin said. “They’re very effective on a knee or shoulder or the back of the neck. … You rarely put it directly on your skin. You usually wrap it in something, maybe a thin towel.”
2. Move your body. Physical activities like indoor exercise or dancing can help you warm up, but don’t get to the point where you’re sweating, Smith said. “We sweat to lose heat and sweating will make us colder.”
4. Cuddle. Snuggles really can keep you warm. “Each of us produces heat through our metabolic processes. We lose our heat to the environment as we maintain body temperature,” Smith said via email. “Increasing skin contact decreases opportunities for the heat to be lost to the environment around us. If two people are under a blanket both of their heat losses combined can increase the temperature under the blanket more quickly than either could do independently.”
5. Change how you perceive cold. Some people have trained their minds to perceive cold as an objective, acceptable sensation rather than something dreadful to control. Some of the best ways to adapt include wearing clothing in layers then removing it, or gradually lowering the thermostat and putting on a sweater, Benjamin said.
Warmth that’s comforting
“It only has to go poorly once to be life changing,” Smith said. If you don’t have children or pets, when you’re done cooking and you turn off the oven, what doesn’t hurt is leaving the oven door open to let residual heat escape.
Time to bundle up
8. Wear thick socks and slippers. Fuzzy socks, slippers or a pair of shoes you reserve for wearing around the house can add extra comfort.
10. Embrace less breathable clothing and linens. While breathable linens (such as cotton-based) are often recommended during the summer, linens with other materials and higher thread counts may be better for winter — higher thread counts have more weaving per square inch.
Optimizing your home and appliances
11. Work with the weather. Open your curtains or blinds to let the sun in during the day, or when outside is warmer than the inside of your home.
12. Seal your windows and doors. Even if your windows and doors are totally shut and locked, drafts can seep in through small crevices. You can use caulk or shrink film to seal those cracks. Placing inexpensive, transparent shower curtains over windows can keep the sun in but the cold draft out. For the bottoms of doors, cloth draft stoppers are “very effective,” Benjamin said.
13. Close off unoccupied rooms. By shutting the doors of rooms no one is using, you can create additional barriers between yourself and the cold outdoors. This can also aid preventing heat loss from the room you’re in.
14. Reverse your ceiling fan. If possible, send your ceiling fan in a clockwise direction so that it sends the warm air down.
16. Move anything that’s blocking heat vents or radiators. The heat will better circulate throughout your home that way.
17. Spend time and sleep in the upper levels of the house. Heat rises, so moving your working, sleeping and living spaces upward may be more comfortable.
18. After showering, don’t run the bathroom fan or close the door. Unless your bathroom is prone to growing humidity-induced mold, the warm steam from the shower can make the nearby air less dry and cool for a short period of time.
19. Buy magnetic vent covers from home improvement stores. Used to cover vents, they can be inexpensive and help to force heat to exit vents in the occupied rooms only.
20. Put down rugs or carpets. These can be warmer to the touch than bare floors.
21. Insulate your attic. If you can afford to, padding your attic with insulation from hardware stores can help to retain some of the heat you usually lose through the attic since heat rises.
22. Research what your residential area offers. Some locations may be running warming centers set up for safety during the pandemic.
Cozy up near the elements
23. Light a fire. If your fireplace runs on wood instead of gas, a fire is another way to keep a room warm and enjoy a cozy night. “Make sure that your flue is properly opened and clean to make sure that smoke doesn’t come back in the home but goes properly up the flue,” Benjamin said. “When the fire is out, you should of course close the flue because it’s like having an open window.”
24. Keep warm and enjoy s’mores. If your state, city, county or neighborhood allows, have a (moderate size) backyard bonfire to keep warm for a while.
25. Don’t light candles. Candles can emit a small amount of heat, but using them as a source of warmth can be dangerous. “People will light candles and go to sleep, and they fall over,” Benjamin said. “The cat comes in and kicks it over and starts a fire.”
With these tips in mind and any others you find, be “broadly thoughtful about how to stay warm in the winter,” he added. “If it sounds like it’s a bad idea, it probably is. Look it up and check it out before you do it.”