As winter sets in and we enter the coldest months of the season, we often start to feel and see the effects on our health. Winter poses unique health problems that we do not generally see throughout the year due to colder temperatures, less hours of daylight and less access to fresh and healthy foods. If we are aware of what may be coming our way over the next few months implementing a few easy things into your life can prevent winter from getting the best of you.
- Common cold/flu/sore throat/cough
It is no surprise to anyone that you are more likely to get sick during the winter and this year has been especially bad for many of our patients. While the cold weather does not cause the viruses, we are spending more time indoors and in close proximity of each other, which allows viruses to spread easily. The cardinal rule to avoiding viruses and bacteria is hand washing. Whether you work in an open plan office, ride SEPTA to work or stay at home with your children, washing hands often and thoroughly with warm soapy water can help keep many of the viruses and bacteria at bay. As with any illness, when you start to feel that tickle in your throat or increase in fatigue, listen to your body. It is best not to try to push through. Start to increase hydration, rest and limit exposure to the cold air. If you are feeling sick, we always recommend avoiding public spaces to protect others around you. If you have been feeling unwell for a few days or weeks and feel you need to be evaluated in our office, we try to keep appointment slots open daily for you to be seen.
- Dry skin
With increase in hand washing and a decrease in moisture in the air our skin starts to dry and can sometimes even crack. Using an unscented cream or Vaseline on the dry areas between hand washing or bathing can help replenish the skins hydration. Another simple solution for dry skin is increasing water intake, this will rehydrate your skin from inside out. Avoid harsh soaps, and use warm water rather than hot water when bathing to prevent stripping your skin of its natural moisture. It is also recommended to use a humidifier in your bedroom while you sleep to counter the dry air coming from heaters.
- Poor indoor air quality
We tend to spend more time indoors with windows shut and heaters going during the winter. To ensure that the air you are breathing is clean make sure to change your air filters, vacuum and dust surfaces more often than normal and wash your bed linens regularly. If you are using heaters or have a fireplace, make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home.
- Seasonal depression or winter blues
Even if you do not have seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder it is not uncommon to feel more lethargic and less happy during the winter months. Days are shorter and nights are longer and getting into sunlight and outside regularly can be a challenge. Do you best to stick to your normal routine throughout the year, plan activities to get you out of the house and keep up with exercise and activity. It can feel hard to get up and go in the winter, but finding a friend or partner to do this with you can help you get there and keep your mood lifted.
- Weight gain
As winter sets in we start to lean into comfort foods and foods that are convenient. There is also a lack of fresh vegetables in the winter that make our meals less bright and healthy. Make sure to make your meals as colorful as possible with a variety of vegetables and lean proteins. Canned and frozen vegetables can make that easier during winter months or try a new winter vegetable or recipe you have never tried before! And as always, get out and get moving for at least 30 minutes per day.
Be proactive about your health this season. We are still offering flu vaccines at the office and it is not too late to get yours. Wash your hands regularly, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Stay active and engaged with friends and family. And as always, stay hydrated and listen to your body when it needs a bit more rest than normal.