Monday, October 26, 2009

Swine flu or H1N1 virus - does it affect people with arthritis more?

I have been keeping an eye about the latest developments of swine flu and checking the websites. The information on the Arthritis Care website is rather generic, I would say, compared to the information in Arthritis Foundation website which provided H1N1 information that is more specific to arthritis patients.
 Many of us would probably be on some immunosupressants which puts us on an increased risk for developing complications, and I hope these patients get the extra attention and immunisation required. 

Fortunately, I do not require any immunosuppressants for my RA. However, I am no stranger to the impact of infections on my symptoms. I have this joke that the H1N1 will not kill me, but the flare triggered for my RA would probably do it. Two months ago, ie end of August, I had a simple cold. Since then, I have been having morning stiffness and other fibromyalgia like symptoms on and off. I have been feeling very tired for these past two months and only begin to feel much better in the past week or so. That was just a simple cold which lingered for a while because I was so tired then. Imagine what a full blown flu would do! I have plenty of experience and know the effect all too well and really dread that.

What can I do not? I got myself - paid or it- the seasonal flu jab as soon as it was available, and I take extreme care of hygiene, especially hand hygiene to reduce the risk of flu transmission. I also avoided peak hours in packed trains and had opted for the buses (always looking out for those precious seats!) even though that meant longer journey times for me. I also keep warm! Hopefully the flu and cold viruses will have mercy and spare me!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cheap heater fans are perhaps not that great - "to invest" in better ones

The cheap heater fan I bought in the high street store for next to nothing was really noisy. I was really afraid that it would explode or something! In the end, I decided to send it back to the shop.

Since the heater fan was really a good idea (practical and economical heating!), I did not intend to give it up. I decided to invest in something better. Surprise, surprise.. Amazon and Ebay still produced the cheapest options when I searched online. However, I was a little sceptical about getting a second hand or refurnished item. You never know with these things.

At the end, I settled on this little beauty on the left (after careful consideration of the purse factor).... 

I had seen the raves on this model in a few website. I wanted one with a thermostat which have a safety net and will auto shut off (really important if you have fatigue or fibro!!!). 

The model on the right was really tempting- it not only allows you to preset the temperature you want, it also comes with a remote control - imagine how useful this is in a chilly morning: stay in your bed, turn it on, and get warm! There is also a Dimplex model which I think is very good value for money, but I am not too sure about its shape/size: I am not too keen to drag something big around with these creaky bones. It will be great for those people who can buy one for each room/really macho & muscular.

With all these homework done on keeping warm, I am keeping fingers crossed that it will be all warm and cosy without a utility bill that kills me by the end of the month. I want to KEEP WARM, not becoming BROKE!

18/04/12 update: 3 winters later, our Delonghi fan heater is still going strong, and is probably the most cost-effective electrical appliance we every bought. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fan heater - it is actually economical!

I got a little fan heater :) It is just a tiny gadget and it consumes 2.4kW. 

Now that the weather is not that cold yet, I just need to turn it on for about 5 minutes every morning when I wake up and change to get to work. It is another 5 minutes when I get home so that it is all warm and toasty when I change. Because it is portable, and I literally "POINT n BLOW" to warm up a section at home. 

And I learned a wonderful trick too.Nothing great, just basic science:
Warm air goes up, and duvets trap heat pretty well.
I put the heater quite near by bed. Just before going to bed, I pointed the heater to the direction of my bed, turned it on, and lifted the duvet up. In a few minutes, a nice warm of layer air would be trapped trapped between the duvet and my bed. My duvet is 13.5 tog, and that was usually enough to keep me nice and warm. In late autumn and early spring, that was what I need. 

The weather is already quite chilly, but not really cold yet. By this time, I usually would have turned on my central heating. However, I found that all I need was about  20 minutes of that fan. Is that economical?
Lets check the cost!

 2.4 x (20/60)hour x unit price =0.8 x cost/unit of electricity for one day of heating.

The cost of day time electricity for my tariff was 17.5 pence/unit.

Therefore, if I use the fan for 20 minutes a day, the cost is 0.8 x17.5 p =14pence per day.
In one month, it would cost me around £3.50.

The cost would go up to £5.20 per month if I use it for 30 minutes per day.

Therefore, despite the bad reputation of fan heaters, it is actually cost saving if you consider that you can use the other sources of heating less or delay turn on your central heating!

p/s: Invest just a little bit more to get a decent heater fan. We found out later that the cheapest product on the high street was a disappointment. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Winter heating - storage heaters are not that economical at all!

Storage heaters are false economical solutions - I think.

Although they use the "off peak" night time electricity to charge up (at about half the day time rate), it is still seven hours of electricity consumption per day. To make things worse, they make the room too warm in the early morning - when they are warm enough and start discharging the heat, but the room would not be warm enough in the evenings. As these oldies do not come with a timer, trying to adjust them means really poor quality of sleep for us. Imagine how well you can sleep if at the back of your mind, there is a little voice which says "wake up to turn off heater, otherwise the bills will give you a heart attack".

I just went to check my model and realised that it consumes 2.5kW. Since it is auto on for 7 hours, I use 17.5kWh per day or 17.5 units per day! I checked my unit price and multiplied that by 17.5 for the cost of 1 heater per day.

At 17.5*30*unit price = the price per heater per month. 
That just happens to be equivalent to 2 weeks of groceries money for me and hubby! 

I have two such units, one for the bedroom and one for the living. That is great isn't it. Turn on the both of them and we can succeed in our dieting goal. And ohh, did I mention that I have two smaller heaters for the bathroom and the hall? They just consume a measly 0.9kW each. 0.9*2*30*unit price = £15 - almost what i spend on fuel for my tiny car to get me to the supermarket per month.  I almost forgot about that boiler which takes care of my hot water supply!

Having worked those out yesterday afternoon, I went to the nearest electrical shop and bought a cheap heater fan.. I think that wonderful heater fan which cost me about £3-5 per month to run deserves its own post!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Signs that you are not keeping warm enough?

When winter comes, keeping warm is a decision - do you want to spend that money to keep warm?

Like many people, we try not to turn on the heating until November.  Turning on the heating "on demand" would result in sky high bills. I have been putting on layers since the beginning of October, and going to bed early, before I really feel the chill.

Perhaps that is a bad idea. I am now beginning to recognise the symptoms of not keeping warm enough. These are so similar to my fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritris symptoms, that to be honest, it is difficult to distinguish.

These are the signs that I have not been keeping warm enough, I think:
  • Stiff shoulders - stiff neck. 
  • Headache related to the stiff shoulders and neck
  • Upper back (shoulder areas) cold to touch
  • Generalised stiffness, especially in the mornings. My elbow frequently gets out of my duvet when I sleep and that is the joint that takes the brunt of the cold.
  • Generalised tiredness from all those stiffness
  • Symptoms not improved by the usual medications/massage that help with stiffness
Keeping the whole room warm is really too expensive for us. I suspect that the "economical" storage heaters that we have in our old, rented flats that not that economical after all. Perhaps I should find a cheaper way to keep warm...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


It is that time of the year again. The colours begin to change, and Mother Earth is preparing itself for a long good rest.And it is also the time for me to ask that question again " How do I manage my arthritis in the winter?" "How do I prevent my fibromyalgia from worsening in the winter"?

I have a strange love for winter. I love its quietness, I love the opportunity for a rest. No one bothers you about whether you are going on a holiday or "what do you do this weekend?". I dread those questions, to be honest, especially whenever I was dead tired. Do I tell them, " I sleep through the weekend. I had no energy for anything"?

But autumns bring those cool chilly mornings - a reminder that it is going to get colder in the following months and where the stiffness of my joints become more apparent in the mornings. It is a struggle to go to work some days.

These are the days that I need to prepare myself.  How do I keep warm? How do I keep well?

I am so glad that I have been keeping this blog. As I seldom post, I have been tempted many times to delete it. However,  I found my old posts so useful to check out which strategies worked for me, and I am glad that these are now becoming tips that I share with my friends - "how do you take care of your arthritis in the winter"?