How Cold Weather Affects My Prosthetic Limb

How Cold Weather Affects My Prosthetic Limb

Tuesday, 07 December 2021 15:03

It has not felt much like winter here in western North Carolina. With a record high temperature in the mid-70s during Christmas, some might wonder if we have skipped from fall straight to spring. If not for the early sunsets and long nights, Asheville residents would think we were getting ready for the summer tourism rush, not the winter slowdown. 

However, we know that the warm weather will eventually come to an end. Soon enough, we will be navigating frigid temperatures, and potentially snow and ice. Long-time residents of western North Carolina know that the change in weather can happen overnight. 

For those with limb loss, the season can present additional challenges to mobility.

In this article, we are discussing how winter affects your prosthetic device. 

How Cold Weather Complicates Mobility

As the highest city east of the Mississippi River, winter in our area is unique compared to other southern cities. From December through February, average high temperatures range from the upper-40s to low-50s, while lows typically plunge into the upper-20s at night. Of course, we can have weeks of much warmer or drastically colder temperatures. 

People say, “If you don’t like the weather in Asheville, wait fifteen minutes.” You could also say, “If you don’t like the weather, drive fifteen miles.” The city is surrounded by mile-high ridges on which conditions can be drastically different. It could be sunny and comfortable downtown, while heavy snow is falling in the high elevation of Haywood or Madison counties. 

Weather and Artificial Limbs in Asheville:

  • The range of potential conditions makes it hard to predict what weather to expect when you leave home. 
  • We get enough snow and ice most winters to make roads and sidewalks dangerous. 
  • Extreme cold can lead to pain, discomfort, and dryness with your residual limb. 
  • Adverse weather can exacerbate maintenance-related or mechanical issues with your artificial limb. 
  • Snow and ice-melt solutions can be corrosive to some of the materials from which your artificial limb is constructed. 
  • Getting snowed in could make it challenging to get out and about for vital supplies. 

If you live in western North Carolina, you’re going to have to deal with winter weather. Here are some ways to navigate the seasons safely and remain mobile even when the weather doesn’t cooperate. 

Tips for Navigating the Cold for People With Limb Loss  

1) Be Weather-Aware 

While it may be impossible to know exactly what weather to expect from one place to another, you can at least have a general sense of the forecast and make sure you are prepared for a range of conditions. A couple of tips for being weather-aware include:

  • Get forecasts from reputable sources such as the National Weather Service. Smartphone weather apps can be handy but are often unreliable. 
  • Make sure you check the weather forecast for your destination as well as your location. 
  • Follow local meteorologists like Jason Boyer and Hunter Ward.
  • Don’t just assume that the meteorologists are incorrect when they predict snow. 

2) Make Sure Your Prosthetic Device Is Well-Maintained

This is not the season to just trust your limb will hold up against the conditions if there are any maintenance concerns. While each device is unique, there are some general issues of which to be aware, such as

  • Loose screws and bolts
  • Changes in the way the limb sounds, such as squeaking and squealing or clicking and popping
  • Parts that seem to stick or not move as fluidly as they once did
  • Any cracks, breaks, or visible signs of damage
  • Keep your prosthetic device dry as water can cause corrosion 

This is the season to make sure your artificial limb is in prime condition. 

3) Give Yourself Extra Traction

If you are going to be walking through snow or on icy surfaces, give your footwear a little extra traction. Adding cleats to your boots can help you keep your footing; however, it is also important to take it slow when navigating slick surfaces. 

4) Stay Warm

Staying warm is not just a matter of comfort, but necessary for getting around the Asheville area safely. 

  • Dress in layers and prepare for the coldest temperatures you could potentially experience.
  • Utilize waterproof jackets and footwear to make sure you stay dry. 
  • Consider packing an extra jacket, blanket, gloves, and hand warmers when venturing out during winter. 
  • Make sure your residual limb stays warm to ensure your prosthetic device fits properly. 

5) Keep Your Prosthetic Clean and Dry

When sidewalks are treated with ice-melt solutions like rock salt, they could come in contact with your artificial limb. You must be vigilant about cleaning your prosthetic device before the salt has an opportunity to corrode the materials from which your device is made. Keep your artificial limb clean and dry during the winter to make sure it is working well when you need it. 

If you are in the Asheville area and in search of the highest-quality prosthetic devices, Orthopedic Appliance Company is here to help. Contact our team for more information about our artificial limbs and orthotic devices.