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Updated 1/22/2005

Cold Protection Suit for Cryoglobulinemics

It is critical for some people with cryoglobulinemia to stay warm in order to prevent ulceration of the skin. Because cryoglobulins are made of antibodies that are unique to each person with the condition, every case of cryoglobulinemia is unique. But there is a subset of cryoglobulinemia cases where the person effectively gets "frostbite" at temperatures well above freezing. This happens in these people because their cryoglobulins precipitate in the blood vessels of chilled skin and stop the local circulation when the temperature in the skin reaches a level — unique to each patient and the severity of their condition — somewhere between 4° C and 37° C. Cold air hitting the lungs might also conceivably be injurious.

Hawai`i and southern Florida provide the best warm climates in the U.S. for cryoglobulinemics with susceptibility to the cold. Not everyone can move there, though. For susceptible cryoglobulinemics facing cold winters, staying indoors is the obvious choice. Some trips outdoors may be necessary, though, and then it is critical to have protective clothing. Even in Florida or Hawai`i, air conditioning may be dangerous to some cryoglobulinemics. So there, too, protective clothing is needed.

It is possible to keep the body warm in very cold weather (even the legs and feet) with the proper technical clothing (though of course there are levels of cold that can overcome even the best technical gear in the healthiest people). Below are links to the best protective clothing items I could find over the Web. Local stores will carry many brands of hats, down coats, and gloves. But the critical parts of the suit---the down pants, booties, and respirator mask---are very hard to find, which is why I have provided this guide. If any of these links are outdated, please click here to send me a note.

Down Pants

Pants are the critical part of the protective suit, since cold legs are most vulnerable to cold, and precipitated cryoglobulins may lodge in the feet and toes causing ulcers. Fleece pants, leg warmers, warm underwear, etc. are helpful, but may fail to provide sufficient protection from the cold. Down or synthetic filled pants are the best protection available. Down pants are extremely warm, yet very breathable, very light and compressible. They are ideal for walking in the cold. They are less suitable for sitting in the cold because the down compresses under the seat and knees, letting cold through.
Feathered Friends Helios or Volant Pants $160. Feathered Friends Frontpoint pants $275. Feathered Friends 40 Below pants $350. Marmot 8000 Meter Pant $419
North Face Himalayan Pants. Waterproof. $375. Mountain Hardwear Chugach Pant (Polarguard, not down) $119.95.
Manufacturer's site Manufacturer's site Manufacturer's site Manufacturer's site Manufacturer's site Manufacturer's site


Sierra Designs Down Booties $32. Very warm. These breath very well, and are still comfortable at normal warm temperatures. But neither the uppers nor the cloth soles repel water at all. They compress well for packing.
Icebreaker Boot Blanket $49.95. The X-Large size has plenty of room for sensitive, bandaged feet. These have rugged, waterproof soles and can fit over regular shoes. They are very warm, and so thick that it would take a long time for rain to soak through. Their huge size and camouflage fabric tend to draw attention, though, if one is worried about vanity.
"Hot Sox" Primaloft Booties $35

Cold Weather Respirator Mask

Lung problems are often seen with cryoglobulinemia, but role of cold air has not been investigated. These masks are designed to warm the air entering the lungs.
Cold Weather Health Mask, $9.99 at Dr. Leonard's Discount Healthcare Catalog, (800) 785-0880, Part #15184.
Psolar EX Facemask from Psolar Outdoor Performance Gear, 888-PSOLARX (888-776-5279). Testimonials, but no test data are available on its effectiveness. $37.
PolarWrap WarmAirMask. This mask uses a copper exchange module to warm the incoming breath under normal breathing. The lab tests on this mask appear to show that it would be an effective precaution for protecting the lungs. $29.95.
The I Can Breathe mask uses polyester (rather than metal as the above masks use) to warm the incoming air. Testimonials, but no test data are available on its effectiveness. $25.
This heat-exchanger mask warms the incoming air quite well and has been used successfully by a cryoglobulinemia patient for brief sub-freezing outdoor exposures. It is Model WW10 made by Southwind Respirator, Wickliffe Industries, Inc., P.O. Box 286, Wickliffe, OH 44092, or 8562 Billings Road, Willoughby, OH 44094, (440) 256-1030, and sells for $24.95. It has several layers of finely woven aluminum screen to transfer heat and moisture to incoming air. Cleaned with soap and water. It does not interfere with speech. It was distributed by Dr. Leonard's Discount Healthcare Catalog, (800) 785-0880. It appears to be unavailable now, but was listed as Part #36459 for $19.99.

Fleece Hat

It is important for the hat to completely cover the ears, otherwise the edges such as the earlobes can be damaged. Sources for these hats include Outdoor Research and Campmor.
"Peruvian"  $23 "Sherpa"   $27 "Bomber"   $31

Down Jacket

Feathered Friends Helios Jacket $185. North Face Nuptse Jacket $80 at Cabelas. Mountain Hardwear Chugach Jacket $135.00 at REI.

Fleece Gloves

Outdoor Research Windstopper Gripper Gloves $45

Wide-Stretch ("Diabetic") Socks for Tender Feet

These socks are not for cold protection, but can be very handy for people with foot ulcers or bandages where normal socks are too tight.
From Dr. Leonard's Discount Healthcare Catalog, (800) 785-0880
Men's Standard#7566#75642 pairs/$14.99, 4 pairs/$26.99
Men's Dress#50427#504352 pairs/$9.99, 4 pairs/$16.99
Women's#20701N/A2 pairs/$9.99, 4 pairs/$16.99

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