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Photo: TOA HEFTIBA/UNSPLASH

Take care of your health in winter

Cold weather does not cause illness, but it can make it worse. For example, viruses can survive and multiply more easily in cold, dry air, and lower temperatures encourage people to remain indoors, facilitating the transmission of viruses.

Thus, the arrival of winter facilitates the appearance of health problems for everyone, especially children and the elderly.

Let’s start with the diseases that can worsen in cold weather:

  • Infectious diseases

It is known that the flu is one of the most common health problems this season. It is an acute viral disease that mainly affects the respiratory tract, and generally occurs between November and March, which is why it is called seasonal. Symptoms begin one to four days after infection and last for about a week. To combat increased flu activity, flu vaccination is recommended for people at increased risk of exposure to the disease.

  • Respiratory diseases

Cold and dry air can harm the airways, especially for those suffering from respiratory problems (asthma or COPD). The cold can trigger symptoms such as coughing and difficulty breathing and facilitates the worsening of the primary disease, especially when circulating viruses cause infections. To reduce the harmful effects of cold weather, preventive measures should be adopted: keep your face covered, use bronchodilators and maintain regular hydration.

  • Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition that involves inflammation of the joints. Research has not yet confirmed a cause-and-effect link between the weather and joint pain, although many people claim to be able to predict the weather based on these variations. Sitting for long hours during cold, wet days can worsen pain or stiffness. The solution is to stay active with regular exercise and stretching.

  • Cardiovascular diseases

The cold activates a set of reactions that trigger the contraction of blood vessels and a consequent reduction in the space available for blood circulation. This can compromise the adequate delivery of oxygen to the tissues, being a possible cause of instability of fatty plaques in the arteries and consequent sudden obstruction of the blood vessels, facilitating a stroke.

  • Depression and seasonal affective disorders

Reduced sunlight in fall and winter can cause seasonal depression, a behavioural change related to decreased hours of daily light. The change of season and the decrease in sunlight can disrupt the “internal clock” due to a decrease in serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that affects mood and can disrupt the balance of melatonin levels in the body, which also interferes with sleep patterns and mood.

Now consider adopting the following behaviours:

  • Seasonal nutrition. It is important to prioritize foods that are “friendly” to the immune system: fruits, vegetables, hot soups and foods rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Adequate hydration. Even though thirst decreases when the temperature drops, the body always needs to replace fluid losses. Drink water, hot teas and infusions.
  • Appropriate clothing. Choose clothes that adjust to the outside temperature and dress “like an onion”, in layers, paying special attention to protecting extremities such as hands, feet and head.

Article submitted by the HPA Group