Common Winter Health Issues
December 27, 2017
In the winter, health issues are nearly impossible to fight against. The weather conditions make it easy to get injured, and even easier to get sick. Seasonal depression and lots of time inside can cause issues, as well. Generally, winter is the worst time for your health. It’s a miracle if you don’t get sick at least once, so it’s important to know what you might be staring down.
Cold and flu
With the weather growing ever colder in the winter, bacterial and viral infections (such as the cold and flu) are better able to survive. In a previous article, we discussed the reasons behind many winter health issues. There are two major factors at work: a lower body temperature providing the ideal environment for bacteria to grow, and more time in stale air giving bacteria more opportunity to spread.
To prevent the cold and flu, all you need to do is stay warm and get the air in your house moving. You may want to look into a humidifier, which will help offset any dry air from your heater. Make sure that you and the people around you frequently wash your hands and sneeze or cough into an arm. Hands are one of the quickest ways to spread viruses and bacteria, and having any unnecessary germs in the air puts you at risk. To reduce your chances for the flu, also consider a flu shot. Many have warned that the current (2017) flu shot may only be 10% effective, but 10% is still better than nothing.
If you’ve contracted either the cold or flu, you’ll likely just need to wait it out. You can try home remedies such as chicken noodle soup, but there isn’t much else to be done. Staying hydrated will make coping with symptoms much easier, and you should always stay on alert for signs you may be dealing with a bigger health problem.
Asthma attacks, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular problems
Asthma attacks are much more common in the winter. Stale, dry air can make breathing more difficult, and may trigger an asthma attack. In some areas, this air can also lead to mold, dirt and dust hanging around in the air for longer. If you or a family member are asthmatic, it is important that you stay extra vigilant in the winter. You should speak to your doctor about possible triggers, and ways to prevent them.
Asthma is also exacerbated by the weather itself. When the winter weather comes in and the temperature drops, the human body looks to quickly acclimate. In the early days of winter, the human body will be going through some imperceptible changes. Once these have taken effect you are likely safe, but it can cause issues early on and especially when the weather is quickly fluctuating over a long period of time.
One of the changes the human body makes is a contraction of its vessels. Bronchioles, tubes in the lungs that help push air to the body, can contract quickly and hurt lung performance. This leads not only to potential problems for people with asthma, but also leaves many at risk for bronchiolitis.
Our blood vessels suffer the same fate. You may find people who are arthritic experiencing an abnormal level of discomfort or pain in the early days of winter. In this case, their already weakened blood vessels have been tasked with more work than normal. This is an issue for anyone with heart-related issues, including high blood pressure. This problem can be incredibly serious: research performed in 2010 showed that 200 more heart attacks happened in a day for every 1.8 degrees colder it had gotten.
Not all winter health issues are strictly out of our control. Many people lose their will to exercise in the winter, and occasionally lose the ability to get to the gym in the first place. A survey performed at Cornell University showed that the average American gains 1.3 pounds just between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Of course, this all may sound okay because you know you’re going to lose the weight. A little bit of winter weight gain won’t hurt anybody, right?
Not quite. First of all, the same study linked above showed that the weight gained between Halloween and Christmas can take 5 months to burn. Very little weight gain is legitimately temporary. Further, eating unhealthily for even a short period can lead to a whole host of problems including insulin irregularity, mood problems, and poor brain functioning.
Winter health issues are everywhere. The cold weather is a cause for concern both actively and passively. It is important that you stay on top of your health when the weather gets cold, as just a few small missteps can cause major problems.