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How to get warm and stay warm

P5190021  New lamb (Truth in advertising: This is not a shot of any of our sheep; this photo is courtesy of North Devon Farmer)
Everyone cozy? All settled in? (given the amount of snow and cold out there right now, Aunt Toby certainly hopes wherever you are is cozy) Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, a while ago, when the Little Siberians were younger but not necessarily still little, we raised sheep. By that, I mean we had breeding stock, with rams and ewes and, as nature always takes its course with these matters, lambs. Which, if we were lucky about when we put the rams in with the ewes (because you have this ‘window’ when everything works, the earth moves at least for the sheep and 20 weeks later….), would be, believe it or not, in January when again, if we were lucky, there was a thaw, things would warm up and the lambs would arrive when it was relatively cozy. Or, if we were lucky, no one was feeling particularly romantic at first so the lambs would not arrive until March.

And also, if we were lucky, the moms would behave in mom-like ways and would cuddle up the little mites (who usually arrive in the 6-8 pound range), and let down their milk and allow the babies to feed and not indulge in “Mommy Dearest/”No wire coathangers!”/dysfunctional” ways (like one ewe we had who had the delusion that someone was trying to steal one of her babies and hid him inside a hole in one of the inside walls of the barn – we had to rescue that pup for sure). Because like the breeding thing, you have this ‘window’ of opportunity when the lambs first make their appearances where if they can get cleaned off and get a good meal inside of them (first milk, which is colostrum and which is sort of super-food for mammalian babies everywhere) and it’s not too horribly cold, they are basically good to go. And I really mean that because lambs are born with their own fur coat and under the skin this amazing chemistry called ‘brown fat’ which burns like a house afire and they can live off that for quite a while and get their figurative feet underneath them and just take off.

But, if the poor little buggers are born in the middle of the night, in February, when it’s below 0 degrees F. or if they have a negligent or dysfunctional Mom (and there are all sorts of reasons for that which I won’t discuss at this time since this is a family program) who refuses to recognize them or who refuses to allow them to feed or who won’t clean them off or mother them up, then you have a little critter that resembles nothing less than a ‘lambsicle’ – the poor little thing is chilled literally to the bone.

I don’t think I need to tell you that in the greater scheme of things, these little guys do not do well.

They have hypothermia – their metabolisms slow down, and they enter this spiral where they are not burning enough fuel to stay warm, their circulation slows down, not enough oxygen gets to their brains and well, it’s curtains. Needless to say, the DH and I had some experiences out there in the barn at 2 a.m. on February nights when we ended up with lambs in the kitchen trying to save the little buggers from going into hypothermia, which means we were trying to take a little mite that was hovering at the edge of the cold and darkness and bring them back.

And we learned a bunch of lessons that believe it or not, have application for all of us when we are cold or ill with the flu (because viruses tend to produce some of the same deal in terms of slowing down metabolisms and so on).

Lesson One: If the inside is not warm, warming the outside doesn’t do squat. If we had a lamb that was really chilled (and you check that by putting your finger into the lamb’s mouth; cold mouth/cold lamb), putting said lamb under a heat lamb or a hair dryer made the outside warm but the lamb did not get any better. What worked with the lambs: Really warm colostrum tube fed directly into the stomach. Holding the lamb in a bucket of really warm water. See? Warm the inside AND warm the outside. If you are cold and/or feeling crappy, just taking a hot shower and jumping into bed is probably not going to be enough to really warm you up – you need to be warm on the inside too. So – here’s the drill: Make yourself a hot drink (or soup; whatever you like as long as it’s hot and you drink it all down) and drink that; THEN take a hot bath or shower, and dress up warmly.

Lesson Two: Sometimes you have to jump start the process of warming up.
That is, if we’d fed warm milk to the lamb and had the lamb in the warm water – if we moved the lamb’s legs – like making them walk in the water in the bucket — all of a sudden, they would generate enough energy and circulate enough that they’d wake up, start to move around on their own and just take off. We’d dry them off, put them in warm towels, feed them more hot milk and mother them up some more (we won’t go into the fact that they would no longer smell familiar and their mom would not allow them to feed – but the fact that said Mom had abandoned the lamb in the first place meant that she wasn’t going to allow anything to happen so we figured a saved lamb was a saved lamb and we’d put the lamb on the bottle and raise it that way). So, Lesson Two means that when you are cold and feeling lousy, getting some exercise can actually raise the body core temperature also and that can help you to feel warmer and more energetic and better also.

So, if you are feeling bad (or even at the edge of ‘coming down with something’) and cold:
1) Make yourself a hot drink or hot soup and drink that down.
2) Do some mild exercise which will raise your pulse and do it in a warm area inside. Be dressed warmly enough so that you will stay warm while you exercise but not so warm that you will sweat a lot and then get chilled.
3) Take a hot bath or shower and dress warmly. If you are at home and can then go to bed, then bundle up in bed or on the couch. If you have to go out, make sure you are dressed warmly. Even if you feel a little bit overly warm when you get wherever you need to go, you can always peel off a layer or two to regulate your temperature, but staying warm is one key to holding viruses at bay so if you feel a little bit warmer than usual, that will be ok.

Get warm. Stay warm.

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