Winter Health Tips
Here are some typical cold weather ailments you may experience this winter and some ways of helping your body deal better with them. Remember you can always talk to your Pharmacist.
Colds. Wash your hands regularly. This will destroy any bugs you have picked up from surfaces used by other infected people. If you have a cold, use disposable tissues instead of cloth handkerchiefs to avoid constantly re-infecting your own hands.
Sore throat. These are almost always caused by viral infections. Try gargling with warm salty water (one teaspoon of salt in a glass of part-cooled boiled water) – it has anti-inflammatory properties and can have a soothing effect.
Asthma. If you have asthma you need to be especially careful in winter as cold air can trigger asthma symptoms, such as wheezing and shortness of breath. Wear a scarf over your nose and mouth if you have to go outside on very cold, windy days. Be extra vigilant about taking your regular medications, and keep rescue inhalers close by and in a warm place.
Norovirus (aka the winter vomiting bug). This extremely infectious stomach bug is more common in winter. The illness is unpleasant but is usually over within a couple of days. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration caused by the vomiting and diarrhoea particularly if you a young or elderly. You can reduce the risks of dehydration by drinking oral rehydration fluids (check with your pharmacy).
Painful joints. Many people with arthritis report more pain and stiffness in their joints over winter. It is not clear why this is so, and there’s no evidence of bad weather causing actual joint damage, but the winter months can make everything feel worse, including medical conditions. Daily exercise can make us all feel better and swimming is ideal as it’s easy on the joints.
Cold sores. Although there’s no cure you can reduce the chances of getting them by looking after yourself through winter. Try building in time for things that help you de-stress (e.g. having a hot bath, going for a walk in the park or watching one of your favourite films).
Heart attacks. More common in winter, perhaps because cold snaps increase blood pressure and put more strain on the heart. Your heart also has to work harder to maintain body heat when it’s cold. So, make sure you stay warm in your home – keep the main rooms you use at 21C (70F) and use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to keep warm in bed. Wrap up warm when you go out and wear a hat, scarf and gloves.
Cold hands. If your fingers and toes change colour and become very painful in cold weather then you may have a common condition called Raynauds. It’s a sign of poor circulation in the small blood vessels of the hands and feet. In severe cases, medication can help, but most people live with their symptoms. Stop smoking or drinking caffeine as these can worsen symptoms and always wear warm gloves, socks and shoes when going out in cold weather.
Dry skin. Often worse during the winter when environmental humidity (especially indoors) is low. Moisturising the skin stops the skin’s natural moisture from evaporating away. Ideally do this after a bath or shower, while your skin is still moist, and again at bedtime. Have warm not hot showers (hot water makes skin feel more dry and itchy and hair look dull and dry).
Please note: All content within this article is provided for general information only and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional.
The flu virus is a highly infectious respiratory illness that circulates every winter, usually over a period of a few weeks. It spreads rapidly through the coughs and sneezes of infected people and is a major killer of vulnerable people. The flu jab is offered to people in at-risk groups, who are at greater risk of developing serious complications from flu. To stay protected, they need to have it every year. People particularly at risk are those aged 65 and over, those with certain serious medical conditions (such as diabetes, heart,lung and kidney disease) as well as pregnant women and frontline health care professional. If you’re in a high-risk group, see your GP as soon as possible to find out more about the vaccination. If you are not sure if you’re at risk then talk to your GP or pharmacist.
Visit the Government’s website for more information.