A list of ‘tips and tricks’ to stay safe in Indian winters were churned out, during a casual WhatsApp group conversation for a dear friend ( a first-timer to the Himalayas) to keep herself safe in winters. The group resonated my thoughts on journaling these tips and tricks that I suggested, in some written form. So here it is – a post on conquering the gruesome, yet, awesome winters of North-India.
This should prove helpful and useful especially to first-timers experiencing the North-Indian winters and for that matter any sort of winters in the world. These tips may prove handy to travellers, tourists and of course the armed forces fraternity. These hacks worked for me and may work for you too in winters..so let us together beat the Winter blues!
Hacks to make winters enjoyable
1) A warm hot water bath is a must
- Come what may bathe every day with ‘not-so-hot water’. Overcome the temptation of a hot water bath that is proven to deplete the skin of its essential oils.
- An application of mustard oil or coconut oil to the body prior to a bath is bound to be very beneficial. Stick to warm-water baths.
- Apply cold cream or body-lotion immediately post-bath. This will keep one’s skin hydrated and prevents from developing flaky scales during the harsh winters(lest you end up looking like a snake shedding its skin!)
- Of course, use a sunscreen without fail even if the day is gloomy.
- You may make use of Glycerine based skin-care recipes that do the trick of keeping the face moisturized in winters. Utilize Google Baba for these recipes.
2) Soak your feet in warm water
- Make it a habit to soak your feet in warm-water added with salt/rock-salt, before going to bed in winters. Soaking for even 5-10mins does wonders to the body. It prevents from being prone to frostbites or if one has already developed one, then acts as a cure. The cherry on the cake is the sound sleep post a dip. Try it!
- Frostbite is an injury in which the tissues of the body get damaged due to freezing. Deep frostbites make the skin hard, white/pale, cold and numb. When rewarmed, the skin may turn blue or purple and this is quite painful. I have experienced these frustrating frostbites on my toes. And, the above remedy worked like a charm
- Never allow a frostbitten part to refreeze. This can result in severely damaging the underlying tissue.
- Also, introspect before warming the skin with the help of dry, radiant heat, like a heat lamp or campfire if your skin appears to be frostbitten. Frostbitten skin can easily get burned.
3) Place a bowl of water
- If using a portable room heater or blower, then place a bowl of water in the room. It is simple science at play here: in winters, the air is drier due to lack of water vapour. This results in dry skin and eyes and may induce static electricity especially while using the mink blankets.
- By evaporating water, you are making the air a little moist/humid. This paves the way to less static electricity, less dust and keeps the skin hydrated.
4) Ditch multiple thick woollens
Yes, do not stuff yourself with thick sweaters and cardigans. Tight clothing can restrict the blood circulation that keeps one warm in winters.
Instead, wear multiple layers of loose clothing.
Reason: The air space between loose-fitting layers of clothing provides much better insulation than bulky layers of woollens. Furthermore, multiple layers can help manage the body temperature and prevent overheating. This helps to accommodate changes in activity and weather as the day progresses.
Ideally, a layer of the base layer followed by an insulating layer and topped with a protective layer should be the dressing sequence during extreme winters.
5) Cover your head, neck, wrists, and ankles areas.
Reason: These areas of the body radiate heat easily and have little body fat for insulation. So use mittens, gloves, scarfs to keep these parts warm.
When I reached the highest point of the Dainkund peak in the lower Himalayas, after a trek from Dalhousie- my chin, lips and jaws went numb due to the cold winds as my scarf got misplaced. I could get back to normalcy only after keeping my face warm by covering it for almost 20 minutes, with a borrowed stole!
6) Include foods that keep the body warm
Liberal amounts of nuts, dry-fruits and ginger should be included in the everyday diet. Devour on seasonal fruits belonging to the citrus family. The Vitamin-C in these will keep the cold and flu at bay.
Restrict the intake of coffee, tea and alcohol as these can dehydrate one’s body. Keep sipping water throughout the day even if not thirsty to keep yourself hydrated.
7) Stop imitating the local lifestyle to the ‘T’
Yes, the genes of the mountain people are adapted to climatic conditions at that altitude, unlike yours who has just moved to that height. So, stay protected and don’t try too hard to do things the local way. Do follow their guidelines, though.
8) Use polythene but be responsible
When going out in the snow, try wearing two layers of socks, one over the other. This keeps the skin safe from getting frozen. A simple hack could also be to cover feet, each with a polythene bag! This usually prevents snow from wetting the feet.
Do not litter the used polythene bags and damage the beautiful mountains. Carry them back home and dispose of responsibly!
Use socks even while indoors at home, but do keep your feet off occasionally to allow some sunlight on your skin.
9) Do not exercise too hard
An ascent in altitude results in a descent of oxygen levels. But the body’s need for oxygen remains the same. Thus, those who dwell in the plains and visit higher altitudes are often caught by surprise when they go out to exercise- whether it’s trekking, running on the treadmill, swimming, skiing, hiking in the mountains or taking a jog.
At higher altitudes, due to less availability of oxygen, one may end up gasping for breath if exercises are overdone. So start Slow!
Give your body enough time to get acclimatized to varying altitudes. Do not workout on the first day, for sure!
Exercise regularly without overexerting yourself. Try breathing exercises and Yoga. Shun the vehicles when in hills. Rely on the feet. Walk to that shop, trek to the nearest destination and climb the mountains. This should take care of your physical fitness.
10) Be cautious post a snowfall
Do not try to step out for a day or two after a snow-fall without making sure that proper salting of roads is done. Check for precautions in place. As Snow gets melted, it gets converted to ice, hence the civic authorities often salt public roads to avoid the formation of ice. Wear appropriate footwear to overcome those slippery ice roads!
We as families of the Armed Forces are shunted from one place to another in a span of years, few months or sometimes within a few days(exceptional cases). I remember how hard it was for our family to get acclimatised to the cool climes of Dalhousie in Himachal after driving down from the clutches of the blistering heat of Rajasthan’s Thar desert. It is indeed serene and a sign of relief to see the fluffy cloud-kissed mountains, however, acclimatization isn’t easy.
Because, as dwellers of the plains, our body isn’t suited for high altitudes. We nomads ought to try ourselves to be flexible and adaptable, lest we become extinct!
In this process, I learnt many hacks from local people, some veteran families and through trial-error methods. Let me know in the comments if a blog-post on ‘Kitchen Hacks for Winters’ would be helpful. Depending on the response, I shall write a post on it.
Hope these tips and tricks come in handy for you too! Feel free to add your own hacks to beat winters in the comment section as this is not a conclusive list. Share this post to let help others. Happy Winters 🙂
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Images’ Source: Pixabay