Winter illnesses and how to deal with them | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 14, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:24 AM, January 14, 2018

Winter illnesses and how to deal with them

Some health problems, such as asthma, sore throat and cold sores, are triggered or worsened by cold weather. Here is how to deal with cold weather ailments.

Colds: You can help prevent colds by washing your hands regularly. This destroys bugs that you may have picked up from touching surfaces used by other people, such as light switches and door handles. It is also important to keep the house and any household items such as cups, glasses and towels clean, especially if someone in your house is ill.

Sore throat: Sore throats are common in winter and are almost always caused by viral infections. There is some evidence that changes in temperature, such as going from a warm, centrally heated room to the icy outdoors, can also affect the throat.

Asthma: Cold air is a major trigger of asthma symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath. People with asthma should be especially careful in winter. Stay indoors on very cold, windy days. If you do go out, wear a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth. Be extra vigilant about taking your regular medications, and keep reliever inhalers close by.

Norovirus: Also known as the winter vomiting bug, norovirus is an extremely infectious stomach bug. It can strike all year round, but is more common in winter and in places such as hotels, hospitals, nursing homes and schools. The illness is unpleasant, but it is usually over within a few days. When people are ill with vomiting and diarrhoea, it is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

Painful joints: Many people with arthritis say their joints become more painful and stiff in winter. There is no evidence that changes in the weather cause joint damage. Daily exercise can boost a person's mental and physical state. Swimming is ideal as it is easy on the joints.

Cold sores: Most of us recognise that cold sores are a sign that we are run down or under stress. While there is no cure for cold sores, you can reduce the chances of getting one by looking after yourself through winter.

Heart attacks: Heart attacks are more common in winter. This may be because cold weather increases blood pressure and puts more strain on the heart. Your heart also has to work harder to maintain body heat when it is cold. Stay warm in your home. Wrap up warm when you go out and wear a hat, scarf and gloves.

Cold hands and feet: Raynaud's phenomenon is a common condition that makes your fingers and toes change colour and become very painful in cold weather. Fingers can go white, then blue, then red, and throb and tingle. The small blood vessels of the hands and feet go into spasm, temporarily reducing blood flow to your hands and feet. In severe cases, medication can help, but most people manage to live with their symptoms.

Dry skin: Dry skin is a common condition and is often worse during the winter, when environmental humidity is low. Moisturising is essential during winter. Contrary to popular belief, moisturising lotions and creams are not absorbed by the skin. Instead, they act as a sealant to stop the skin's natural moisture evaporating away. The best time to apply moisturiser is after a bath or shower while your skin is still moist, and again at bedtime.

Flu: Flu can be a major killer of vulnerable people. People aged 65 and over, pregnant women and people with long-term health conditions, including diabetes, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are particularly at risk. The best way to prevent getting flu is to have the flu jab (or flu nasal spray for children aged 2 to 17). The flu vaccine gives good protection against flu and lasts for one year.

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