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Ask HN: How do you deal with cold fingertips when you code?
33 points by Filthy_casual on Jan 14, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments
I developed this effect a few years ago, but it didn't bothered me until lately.

Of course it's less noticeable in the hot days, but in general when I go out for long walks my fingers will feel bloated and red-ish. The doctor told me that it's called Raynaud's phenomenon and that I'll have to figure out ways to deal with it.

So far I tried some gloves that I had in my house but even with those my fingers get cold while they are inside the gloves.

Absurdly enough, the room temperature doesn't have much to do with it, because the air condition is working at full throttle and my room is close to 80-82 Fahrenheit most of the time.

Also, if you have it, did you ever had to report it to your manager? Did you tried anything that worked for your workplace?

Generally cold fingers are from poor circulation. Living in Colorado where a few months of the year we get very cold weather so I have learned a few tricks about cold hands (from Snowboarding to Programming I've experienced cold hands almost everywhere).

One awesome thing my work did for me was brought in a hand massage specialist who taught me several stretching techniques for the hand that help increase blood flow which in turn helps keep them much warmer.

Check out the the following page [1], it has pictures and descriptions that teach great stretches. Not only is it good for circulation it's good to just do this in general to prevent other common problems that stem from lack of stretching.

side note stretching has been a real game changer for my programming. Not only does it make me feel more energized, the stretching seems to have increased my work ethics by a lot because I feel more energized to be that team player.

[1] http://www.toc.md/exercises_wristhand.htm

If this doesn't help just grab a desk USB hand warmer and that should be able to help when your hands aren't feeling so nice (as mentioned by other users in this).

edit Also wanted to mention after thinking a bit more and the hands, feet, and head are the places you lose the most amount of body heat from. I wear a hat while programming so possibly having one at your desk may also help keep in more heat? Just a thought, doubtful this is the root of the issue for ya though.

Thanks for sharing the link! They seem like things I can do on short breaks to keep my fingers, hands, and arms nimble especially during long coding sessions.


Obviously I am not a doctor.

Reading through that suggests either you are a normal case and just need to take your fitness seriously (including keeping stress under control) to improve circulation. You could be an abnormal case and need to look at medication - but as you have already seen a doctor I am going to guess that isn't the case.

For fitness I wholeheartedly recommend https://www.reddit.com/r/bodyweightfitness/wiki/kb/recommend... (vid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AB3HhP2GYk0&feature=youtu.be ).

The heater suggestions seem like good ideas to treat the symptoms while you work on the cause.

Reporting it to your manager is an interesting question. Personally I wouldn't do anything formal, but I work quite closely with my manager so he would informally know, I also don't have to get permission to use any personal equipment at work - which isn't the case for everyone.

But again, I am not a doctor.

It sounds like a PITA of a condition. I hope it is benign and treatable for you.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, I have found that applying more layers to my core rather than to my fingers/hands tends to keep my fingers warmer.

Of course, this only works if blood can circulate heat from your core to your extremities. Try throwing on a vest and, when coding, make sure your elbows are not bent and your writs are not resting on a pad in such a way as to obstruct blood flow.

Good luck!

This works for me. It's more of an issue when I'm playing music than coding. So I put on socks, slippers, a nice sweater, or maybe a hoodie, even a hat.

From what I've read, when the core gets colder, the body withdraws blood from the extremities.

I tried googling for this but got mixed results. Shouldn't the wrists be touching/resting on the desk (the piece of desk between the keyboard and me) or are they suppose to float?

They're supposed to float. It's much better ergonomically.

Look for images/videos of professional pianists -- ideal wrist ergonomics for typing are very similar to those for playing piano.

Specifically, your wrists should be loose and relaxed, so that your hands would hang down loosely if the fingers weren't resting on anything. My piano teacher used to spend a few minutes at the beginning of each lesson shaking my forearms until the wrists loosened enough!

Also if you are "hair-challenged" on your head like me, wearing a hat helps as well.

When I programmed by -30 C outside, (10 C inside), I used a big bowl (2 liters) of tea to heat my fingers. Hands on the bowl, slurp tea, hands on keyboard, repeat. When the bowl, is empty refill it.

But this was before USB, you know, when you had to go uphill in the snow both to and from school. Nowadays you can get something like:


And of course, you should be careful in your choice of computing hardware and software. Nowadays, hardware and software are optimised to spare energy usage, processors go to sleep or reduce frequency while you're working, etc. All this doesn't produce much heat, in top-notch computing hardware. Instead, choose cheaper, less "green" hardware, some laptop that heats a lot, and run some background tasks (eg. you may compile the linux kernel in a loop, or have some 3D rendering game running in background), so that the processor is used close to 100% full frequency, and produce more heath. Then you can put your fingers on the hot surfaces or on the air vent exits.

I second the tea solution. It also forces you to get up to use the bathroom.

Suggestion alternative solutions to the bathroom approach is considered Discussthing and will get the thread locked and loaded.

If you're going to deliberately make your computer run full pelt for the surplus heat, you might as well do something useful with it - eg, you could run Folding@Home or some BOINC project, burn those cycles for a good cause.

Or, if you'd rather get something out of it for yourself, you could mine cryptocurrency.

I have a milder form of the same phenomenon and find that workman's style fingerless gloves (I use DeWalt Technician Fingerless Gloves[0] and can vouch for them.) are enough to reduce it to a tolerable level. They are thick enough to retain warmth and highly durable but leave the fingertips unimpeded for mousing / typing.

In your circumstance, I'd look into USB-powered heated gloves as an option as well, e.g. [1]. If that alone isn't sufficient, some have removable heating elements that you could probably transfer over to the heavier fingerless gloves mentioned above.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/DPG230L-Technicians-Fingerless-Synthe...

[1] https://www.amazon.com/GoodBZ-Fingerless-Mittens-Computer-St...

If it's Raynaud's you might want to ask if treatment is appropriate for your case. You're not just getting cold, you have arterial spasms with Raynaud's if I remember correctly, and mayo clinic suggests I do.


Check the lifestyle and home remedy part for some advice, but it sounds like you just need to plan more breaks and relax your extremities more.

So I'd continue to be checked. There is likely a more specific underlying cause that can be treated. Cold is a factor but it seems based on the condition that you could be coding in a volcano and still have this happen

Edit cause I bumped submit on tablet too soon.

I too have struggled with painfully cold fingers and feet while I code. My hypothesis of what is happening is that when you're resting your arms on the table, you are preventing the free flow of blood in your forearms to your hands. Without warm blood reaching your hands, they get very cold. The same thing applies to your feet as the seat you're sitting in constrains blood flow in your legs.

A good short term solution is to fill a paper cup with hot water and wrap your hands around that. This provides temporary relief but only treats the symptom. The effect wears off quickly.

I have also tried fingerless gloves, but those are completely worthless.

The only real solution is to do some light exercise. Most days after I eat lunch, I will walk around for 30 minutes. This light exercise creates heat in my muscles and thereby heats up my blood. The warm blood can also freely circulate to my hands and feet as nothing is constraining the flow of blood. After about 15 minutes of walking I can feel an internal warmth returning to my hands. The skin is still cold but I know soon enough my hands will be warm again. And the effect lasts the rest of the day.

> My hypothesis of what is happening is that when you're resting your arms on the table, you are preventing the free flow of blood in your forearms to your hands.

If this is what's happening, perhaps taking up indoor rock climbing would help. I know of no better exercise for improving the body's ability to send blood to the forearms and hands than rock climbing since so much of it depends on grip strength. Failing that, there are grip strength training devices (example...not suggesting this particular one: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HB7V6KS) that he might keep by his desk to use when he starts getting cold fingers.

> A good short term solution is to fill a paper cup with hot water and wrap your hands around that. This provides temporary relief but only treats the symptom. The effect wears off quickly.

+1 for that. Where I work there's a central cooling system at it gets very cold around where I sit. So I periodically grab some hot tea and hold the cup to help heat my hands.

I too do some walking to help increase body temperature and blood flow. It alleviates the symptoms somewhat.

When I work remotely from home, I use a stand up desk setup. I've found that I don't get the cold feeling when I do this.

Much appreciate your input. I noticed the exact same thing, but it also happens when I put my keyboard in the lap. My theory is that it's due to the impact of my fingers on the keys that "tease" the flow to slow down.

Pick a more expressive language. Less code will mean less arms on the table. All kidding aside, exercise will have benefits on all levels.

Maybe, a small space heater for your desk with the airflow pointed towards your keyboard.

I have the small rooms one described here. And it is pretty manageable. http://thesweethome.com/reviews/best-space-heaters/

I have a mild case of this...fingerless gloves and keeping the room warm work for me. Notably the circulation shutting down is a response to your body being cold as much as your hands...is the ac blowing on your body?

The US Army has done some research suggesting you can train away the response by (IIRC) keeping your hands in warm water while cooling your body:


I've tried this with good results but it may not work as well if you have the issue in warm temperatures.

There are also heated keyboards and mice you could try.

Hello, fellow Reynaud Syndrome sufferer!

Lots of unhelpful advice in other posts: gloves don't work, because heat is brought to your hands by blood flow. Blood flow is cut off, which is why they are cold in the first place. Exercise doesn't really help, because it elevates your core temperature which your body dissipates by circulating to your limbs... which isn't happening. People won't understand what it's like to be painfully cold in a perfectly normal room.

For immediate fixes: if your skin goes dead white and you lose feeling, immediately do something to warm it up.


Finding a bathroom and running warm water over my hands often fixes it, and certainly feels better - though it can be painful as the numbness wears off. You need an external heat source because your body can't do it on its own.

If your flesh goes blueish-purple, warm it IMMEDIATELY. Extended periods without blood will kill cells and you'll get the equivalent of frostbite and gangrene.

In the long term: It's a spasmodic overreaction to cold, so avoid cold sources. i.e. it can be triggered by air conditioning blowing on you, holding food from the freezer, and so on. I wear a hat into our server room at work for just this reason.

Stress level is related, so exercise may help ... indirectly. I've lost 40 pounds over the past year and a half and walk several miles a day. It has been good for my physical condition and stress, but it doesn't seem to have helped Reynaud's.

It can help to have significantly warm clothing to keep it from triggering; I wear Minus33 undershirts and they help. My wife found a woman who had Reynaud Syndrome who makes her own wool mittens to help, and bought me a pair. (I feel like I have giant fuzzy flippers, but they work.)

I have not tried medication for it; can't tell you if it's worth it.

On the plus side, if you don't like feeling too warm... it may never happen to you again. I felt overheated exactly once this past summer, and my house did not have air conditioning.

A close relative of mine suffers from Lupus and with that she has developed Raynauds. She uses blood circulation medication to help get warm blood flowing in her hands and feet. Open fingered gloves are also great for coding because they aren't as restrictive as full gloves. As many others have suggested, a cup of tea or coffee is wonderful too!

I'm sure if you talk to your manager and explain that you have a legitimate medical concern that they will help reach a solution.

I friend of mine had the same condition, which made winter activities (skiing, snowshoeing, etc.).

She found the rechargeable electric gloves from Columbia to be very useful. Many outdoor equipment/apparel companies are manufacturing similar items now. Perhaps a fingerless pair of gloves would help?

edit: perhaps, something like this:www.heatedmouse.com/Heated-Gloves.html

Well, I'm unfamiliar with Raynaud's phenomenon, but from the larger picture you've painted, this doesn't seem to be a temperature issue and quick fixes, while comforting, don't seem to be hitting the core of the issue. I hate to be "that guy" who gets on the gymkata preaching pulpit (and, yes, that's a very old movie reference), but I work in a computer lab and am generally cold, until I work out. Short, quick cardio in the morning (nothing too strenuous) and either more intense cardio with light weight lifting in the afternoon, or heavy weights and light cardio. I know this sounds like the meatheadiest of meathead posts, but it has really helped me out.... also helps me to keep focus a little better and work of a little frustration. Not all of it, but the sharp, acidic edges seem to fade a bit.

I have built a tent for my hands and laptop keyboard that works well for me in cooler rooms.

It sounds like room temperature doesn't impact you you, Filthy_casual, much, so I'm not sure how much this will help you. I am posting mainly for others that may be curious.

I've built these tents out of a number of things, but most commonly it's a t-shirt with 2 coffee mugs on either side to prop it a little. Janky? yes. Effective for me? yes.

I dislike typing with gloves, as my accuracy drops quite a bit. Fingerless gloves don't keep my hands warm. I dislike heating the air in a large room to heat my hands, and I have annoying preference for symmetry on my body that is hard to achieve without two heaters.

>Of course it's less noticeable in the hot days, but in general when I go out for long walks my fingers will feel bloated and red-ish. So far I tried some gloves that I had in my house but even with those my fingers get cold while they are inside the gloves.

Err, maybe I'm missing something, but how about investing in a BETTER pair of gloves?

Doing something with your fingers while walking (keeping them occupied, e.g. with small stretching, etc) will help the blood flow better.

Also, maybe don't go out for "long walks" when it's too cold outside?

I've suffered called hands, fingers and wrists which in turn has made them sore, right up my forearms. I tried gloves and stuff - part of it might be that my home office is in the basement and I live in a climate that sees -30C.

Anyways, my fix is to get the heart rate up. I jump on the treadmill at an incline and do some push-ups. 10 minutes is all I need. And no, I'm not a fitness freak.

I noticed that in long walks in the city my fingers swell up, so it's definitely the blood circulation. Maybe my thin fingers make it worse.

When I first started my shed business and was building my products personally, I worked through two winters in the cold, and to prevent frostbite, I removed my boots, rolled up my pants, and dipped my feet into our hot-tub to restore circulation. (My business was home-based.) By warming them in this manner, the cold didn't bother them for about 4 hours.

Depending on how bad it is, you might have Raynaud syndrome[0]. Ask your doctor if you need calcium blockers.


I helped start Prague's first internet cafe in the mid-90s. The digs were basic. Basement floor & in the winter that was COLD.

The founder's strategy was to hang french fry heating lamps from the ceiling, just a little over our hands. It worked great!

My hands and fingers get cold everyday. We keep our house pretty warm (heat with wood) and we also live in a cold climate.

I wear a hat.

I wear enough clothes to keep my core warm.

When I get up to use the bathroom I also go sit in front of the wood stove for a few minutes and warm my hands up.

I switched from a mouse to a magic trackpad and it really helped. Similarly using an ergonomic keyboard that let my arms be less clenched. YMMV but I think these were particularly helpful to me as I'm fairly tall with large hands.

It seems you have a specific disease, so probably better to ask a doctor than HN. Also, Google can be your friend.

Anyway, I'd personally try niacin (also known as vitamin B3), which is also used in heat-rub creams.

I only experience cold fingers when the room temperature is below ~68°F. In a warm room I don't have such problems. I am young and get plenty of exercise, though.

Ironically, i've been in two buildings where this happens and it's always during summer.

I either go outside or go to the bathroom and wash my hands in hot water every hour or two for a reset.


Probably not as good as fingertip-less gloves but close enough for me.

Sweden here. Put on a hat if your hands or feet go cold.

Perceived temperature is most closely related to movement, so get up and move around.

Really regular workout is the only longterm solution. It's hard to start but be strong and go for team workout classes 3-4 times a week for three months. After you feel the positive changes you won't give up. I'm doing it for three years by now, no cold fingers/feets anymore

Standup frequently and wear USB warming gloves. Seriously!

I have it too. Relaxation and biofeedback training help.

Start an exercise routine. It'll get your blood moving and the problem completely goes away. It's relatively quick too. You'll notice a change in a week.

It's Raynaud's, not "poor exercise routine leads to poor circulation and OP just needs a pep talk" itis. Raynaud's is not a disease of the blood not moving due to being sedentary; it arises from arterial spasms that cut off blood flow. To your point, exercise to improve circulation is indeed often prescribed to mitigate the attacks of Raynaud's, but they won't "completely go away," and that's a bummer of a thing to say to someone with a chronic, uncurable disease that you feel you understand.

A number of people doing that in this thread, by the way, not just you. Raynaud's can be quite aggressive, painful, and limiting to the sufferer's quality of life, including the onset of gangrene and the threat of digit loss in particularly extreme cases. I also see people condescendingly do this to those afflicted in my family -- your fingers get cold? That's easy to fix. Come run with me!

Not how Raynaud's works. Exercise? Good suggestion. Will cure the problem in a week? Google Raynaud's.

Ah I must have skimmed past that part. I've had on/off cold fingertips and the exercise routine does work for me to keep it at bay.

Everybody in this thread seems to have ignored the body of the submission in the excited rush to explain exercise.

Some laptops can get really hot...

I have often thought that it would be awesome if my laptop CPU could vent around the keyboard keys instead of out the side. That might help keep my fingers toasty (I experience cold fingers, same as the OP)

Type faster, more compression and friction produces heat!

All joking aside, I have the opposite problem. I'm always hot.

Take less adderall.

live in the tropics

not sure why this is being downvoted.

i live in the tropics, used to have cold fingers, now i don't have cold fingers.

seems like an honest solution to me?


alright, now i'm just getting trolled, because that's something facebook actually did and i'm still getting downvoted.

From the guidelines [1]:

Please resist commenting about being downvoted. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.

It's fine to make whatever comment you think is appropriate, but if others think your suggestion is, say, unhelpful, they express their discontent by downvoting your comment. It's no big deal :)

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

stand up, walk around for a bit, make some tea

Regular exercise at the gym.

> Absurdly enough, the room temperature doesn't have much to do with it, because the air condition is working at full throttle and my room is close to 80-82 Fahrenheit most of the time.

Airconditioning, open windows, or bad isolation can cause an un undesired airflow.

> The doctor told me that it's called Raynaud's phenomenon and that I'll have to figure out ways to deal with it.

Wait, your doctor did not tell you how to deal with this? You're not paying anyone here for medical advice.

For people who work behind a desk for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week I recommend the following:

First of all, regular physical exercise. Its obvious but it has to be stated, and its even more so important if you don't do physical labour.

Second, for office work the following advice (in no particular order: based on own experience, pomodoro techninque, plus local laws concerning this type of work): put an alarm on your smartphone or watch or equivalent device, set it to one hour. Every time the alarm goes off, you take a walk and do some stretches, total of min 3 up to 5 min (more will cause drama with coworkers and/or boss). If someone complains, you tell them that smokers get to smoke in the bosses time (thereby having a walk, good for their blood circulation; smoking itself obviously isn't good for blood circulation and if you do quit ASAP; consult your M.D. for aid) and you need a small walk to keep your blood circulation going. (Of course, you could also try to plan meetings or grabbing a coffee together with your walk & stretch, tho I don't recommend 6+ coffee during 8 hours of work.) During this downtime, you can think of whatever comes up in your mind. It is actually rather likely that more often than not you get inspiration during your downtime, but that is a useful byproduct not the main goal (this is called the diffused mode of thinking). Oh, and if someone laughs at you, know that when you're both elder you're the one who's laughing because you cared about your physical health throughout your working career. I mentioned this is partly based on pomodoro technique. Its a variation on it. If you're self employed, I actually recommend the pomodoro technique itself (ie. traditional pomodoro is 25 minutes of focus, with a 5 min break, and after 2 hours, a longer break (there are variations, worth looking into this further)). But if you're working for a boss or in a team then a small break after 25 minutes of focus is frowned upon. I believe its a productivity loss, but this is the way the status quo of work force generally thinks, sadly. There's some excellent pomodoro apps available for macOS, Android, iOS and surely also for other OSes and platforms. Like I said, alarm apps also work.

Have long hair, shove them into the hair, sit there in the thinker-pose.

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