Contributed by- Dr. Pooja Chaudhary
Winter is here with its morning fogs, chilly winds, smaller days and longer nights. Do we all not welcome winters with open arms because it also means dressing up in our winter woollies, snuggling in our blankets, lazying under the sun, mouth watering dishes, bonfires and savouring a hot cup of cocoa, coffee or tea?
But winter is also a season of various kinds of health problems like sore throat, asthma, running nose, cold sores, joint pains etc. As famously quoted by Paul Theroux, “Winter is a season of recovery and preparation”, so let us know all about the common winter health hazards and how to deal with them.
Flu & sore throat
Flu or influenza affects most of us during winters. Flu is caused by virus and is super contagious. Various researches show that the flu virus becomes more stable in cold and dry weather. Lack of vitamin D due to reduced exposure to sunlight makes us more susceptible to it. The most common flu symptoms are cough, fever, body aches, sore throat and fatigue making you extremely miserable.
Ways to prevent: It is advised to get enough rest, exercise on regular basis, stay hydrated and have a well-balanced and healthy diet, include more fluids in your diet.
Some useful tips: Make sure to wash your hands regularly. Keep all the house hold item like glasses, cups, towels clean. A person infected with flu is advised to take rest, stay warm and properly clothed. Additionally use disposable tissues, gargle with warm water with a pinch of salt in it, use humidifier incase of stuffy nose and stay hydrated with plenty of fluid intake. A hot cup of ginger tea or soup always helps with the sore throat.
Cold winds, dry air and the sudden change in weather can all trigger the asthma symptoms like coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath (known as the asthma attacks) which can be really frightening. Hence it is really necessary for all the asthmatics to take extra precautions during winters.
Ways to prevent: Avoid going out in the cold weather. If required to go out, wear a scarf loosely over the nose and mouth. Take the proper and recommended medications regularly.
Some useful tips: It is important to be extra cautious during winters, always keep the reliever inhalers close by. Try breathing through your nose as it warms the air before it reaches the lungs.
The onset of winters acts a major trigger of joint pains or arthritis. Cold does not cause new pains but triggers pains at the place of old and new injuries, fractures or pain prone joints. Older or aged people are more prone to it. Cold temperature can cause painful changes in joint fluid thickness leading to swelling in the joints and severe pain.
Ways to prevent: Exercising daily and active lifestyle is very important to keep the person fit physically and mentally. Balanced diet and plenty of water intake is highly advised.
Some useful tips: Stay warm, layer up and wear correct winter wears and wear a knee cap to protect your knees. A warm bath and massage on the affected area can do wonders.
Dry skin & dandruff
Dry skin can be really irritating and can cause itchiness, painful cracks and rough skin. The low humidity in the air makes the skin dry and rough and it also causes dandruff problems. It can also lead to bacterial infections.
Ways to prevent: Moisturising the skin is an essential, apply moisturizer daily after bath and before going to bed. Moisturizers act as a sealant which prevents the natural moisturizer of the skin from evaporating. Hair oiling is also very important in order to get rid off dandruff.
Some useful tips: One should take bath with warm water rather than using hot water as very hot water makes the skin dry and flaky. Use moisturizer or a good body oil. Anti-dandruff shampoos are recommended for dandruff.
This is also one of the most common winter problem majorly affecting the elderly. To maintain the body heat our heart works much harder which tightens the arteries and restricts the oxygen supply to the heart. The cold weather increases the blood pressure which puts strain on the heart and increases the risks of blood clots. All this can trigger a heart attack.
Ways to prevent: It is vital to stay warm in the house. Elderly people can use hot water bags or electric blankets to keep themselves warm. Exercise daily but do not over exert yourself.
Some useful tips: It advisable to wrap yourself completely while going out; cover yourself by caps, scarf and gloves. Take proper and timely medications.
Common winter health illness in children
Kids are extremely sensitive and extra caution has to be taken in their case, some of the most common winter problems in kids are:
- Bronchiolitis/RSV is an infection of the respiratory tract which leads to respiratory disorders.
- Influenza or flu.
- Pneumonia is infection of the lungs caused by bacteria, virus or fungi. It causes inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs and fills it with pus which leads to breathing difficulties. Pneumonia can be really serious.
- Croup is a respiratory infection which causes swelling in the trachea and larynx in children and causes breathing difficulties.
- Strep throat is a bacterial infection in kids that causes that throat inflammation and pain.
Kids can create a lot of fuss over wearing winter clothes but it is of utmost importance to cover them up properly; warm clothes, woollen caps, mufflers, socks are a must. Keep them hydrated and well fed. Include fruits and healthy foods in their diet. Do not let them go outside incase of really cold weather, engage them in indoor fun games.
Common health illness in elderly
With the drop of temperature, some of the common health issues faced by elders include:
- Hypothermia is having abnormally or dangerously low body temperature
- Frostbite is freezing of the skin or other tissues, it is common in case of people with poor blood circulation.
- High blood pressure is really common in winters and has to be monitored properly
- Lung spasm is tightness in the chest which makes breathing really difficult, it is the inflammation of the bronchioles and cold triggers it
- Winter depression
Tips for seniors: Wear layers which can keep them warm, exercise daily and concentrate on your diet.
Winters can be really gloomy, dull and depressing. A lot of people feel low in winters but it is important to remember that a depressed mind is more prone to diseases and health problems. So it is important to keep yourself merry, lively and most importantly active.
This winter take proper care of yourself, stay warm and safe!
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