Mittens are helpful for high school teacher

April 26, 2012|Lisa Prejean

"Mrs. Prejean, please put on your mittens!"

The comment made me realize how cold my hands were.

The tips of my fingers were turning white. My students think it looks bizarre when my hands do that.

They are right. This is a rather strange disorder.

My hands change color when they become cold because I have Raynaud's (ray-NOHZ) disease.

The disease sounds worse than it is, but essentially it is a vascular disorder that interrupts blood flow to the extremities. This disease mainly affects the fingers but also can affect the toes.

Because April will soon turn into May, I thought I would be symptom-free until next winter. But then cold weather came through our area earlier this week.

As a result, my students were subjected to my white, blue and sometimes purple fingers as I stood before them teaching. I use my hands to illustrate points, to refer to writing on the board, to follow along in a text as we read in class.

In other words, I use my hands a lot. They are very visible to my students.

High school student are keen observers — when they want to be.

They certainly notice any changes in me, whether it be hair color, a new skirt or white/blue fingers.

It is a good thing that I keep mittens in my coat pockets year-round. Sometimes I even pull out those mittens when I'm in the grocery store. If it is the middle of summer, people cast strange looks in my direction, but I don't mind. At my age, comfort is more important than vanity.

When I touch something cold, such as a water bottle, a yogurt container or a metal door handle, that seems to trigger the circulation shutdown and the drain of color from my fingers, which often feel cold or numb until the circulation improves.

According to the Mayo Clinic,, women are more likely to have Raynaud's disease, and it is more common in people who live in colder climates.

Perhaps I should move to the South.

But, hey, that would not totally solve the problem.

Apparently, Raynaud's also can be triggered by stress. That can't be the case for me. Why would a high school teacher ever feel stressed?

All I need to do is reach for my mittens, and all is well in the classroom.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send email to her at

The Herald-Mail Articles