How to Fight Winter Health Issues
by MedPlus Team, December 19, 2013
As temperatures fall in winter, our physical health faces renewed challenges of colds, sore throats, and coughs. Apart from these general infections, winter also brings other ailments such as chest congestion, dry itchy skin, sinusitis and seasonal allergies. Challenges intensify for people suffering from conditions like asthma, rheumatism and arthritis. However, useful and simple precautionary measures supported by correct knowledge about the reasons and symptoms of winter ailments can ensure a pleasant winter!
Although there is a spurt in cases of health issues during winter, not all ailments can be directly attributed to low temperature. For example, falling temperatures are not immediately responsible for cold and flu. Exposure of the human body to varying temperatures renders the immune system weak as the body fails to regulate normal body temperature. During changes of seasons, our body needs time to adjust and adapt to the changes in weather conditions. Therefore time, or rather the lack of it, insufficient exposure to sunlight and damp conditions, and a dip in the mercury make it an ideal scenario for infections and allergies to thrive. And once caught, they tend to stay for a longer period relative to other seasons in the calendar.
To maintain health and get through winter with the minimum of fuss, it is wise to take general and sensible precautionary measures which include a good diet, regular exercise, clean habits, keeping yourself warm with sufficient clothing, and drinking plenty of water.
A healthy diet goes a long way in guarding against common winter issues as a diet full of necessary vitamins and nutrients boosts immunity. Whereas necessary bacteria in milk and dairy products strengthen overall immunity, a diet rich in vitamin C, iron, and vitamin A help fight seasonal illnesses. A lowering temperature is usually accompanied by a soaring appetite for humans as the body seeks an instant “heat boost”. However, it is imperative to choose warmth-inducing food with condensed calories that offer enough fat to feel full. An increase in protein-rich food and foods high on whole grains help keep winter ailments at bay.
While regular exercise is important to increase overall fitness levels in all seasons, it acquires vital significance in winter as exercise during winter helps prevent infections and allergic reactions. During winter it is tempting to hang up the exercise gear and hibernate, however, winter workouts offer too many benefits that are difficult to ignore. It maximizes the calorie-burning process to shed the extra kilos, helps combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter depression, results in improved detoxification of waste products and increased blood flow to vital organs. So, exercise regularly to beat the seasonal blues!
Further, to offset winter issues we should assist the body in regulating body temperature with sufficient warm clothing. Drinking sufficient clean, lukewarm water during the winter prevents colds and coughs, and general allergies. Although the craving for spicy food and alcohol increases with the onset of winter, too much spicy food and excessive consumption of alcohol should be avoided as they can do damage in the long term. Clean habits such as frequent handwashing with soap and water reduce the risk of viral infections especially influenza. Viruses can also be inactivated by direct sunlight exposure and the use of proper disinfectants in a household.
The primary skin problem in winter is dry skin. The lack of moisture in the air rips the skin off its natural moisture leaving it dry and itchy. The problem is particularly intense for people with excessively dry skin. A winter skincare regime to fight dry skin problems revolves around one solution, keeping the skin well hydrated. It may include adding humidity to your home, seeking specialist care, to using a lot of sunscreens. It is important to understand that winter sun rays can be more dangerous to the skin, and applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 helps prevent sun rays from damaging the skin. The most important precaution or remedy though is the use of moisturizers and lotions to keep the skin supple. Choose a moisturizer or lotion based on your skin type and enjoy a skin worry-free winter.