Top winter health hazards & tips to stay safe
Each year, with the onset of cold-weather, Indian households prepare to battle winter health hazards. Our mothers gear up with the traditional chyawanprash, monkey caps and vegetable soups to protect us from seasonal health concerns. This winter season, however, we might need to carry out additional protection.
The world is still struggling with COVID-19. We cannot afford to attract winter worries and health hazards during this pandemic. It is because some of the symptoms of these conditions overlap.
If you cough once at your workplace, people will look at you with major suspicion. The greatest concern is that even you wouldn’t know if it is a common cold, flu or coronavirus.
In the article below, Dr Tushar Tayal, a prominent Internal medicine specialist, addresses the topic of cold-weather health hazards.
What are the top cold-weather health hazards?
On one hand, the change in season brings reasons to celebrate. With festivities like Diwali, Christmas and New Year arriving during the winters, there are more opportunities to get together for merrymaking. However, on the other hand, these gatherings bring along an increased risk of health issues.
The blow of cold wind can transfer several problems. Common cold-weather health hazards to avoid are:
Common cold, flu and virus
The set of these conditions is commonly known as winter illnesses. The prevalence of winter illnesses significantly increases if precautionary measures are not taken.
As people spend more time indoors, the likelihood of infection transmission escalates. These numerous viruses can travel through air droplets. Cold weather also leads to more number of acute illnesses. There are certain types of viruses that can affect the throat, mouth or nose.
The signs and symptoms of a common cold are coughing, runny and stuffed nose, congestion in the throat, fatigue, sneezing and fever. Some of these symptoms match the signs of coronavirus. For instance, dry cough, fever and fatigue. This is why you should aim to completely avoid the common cold, flu and catching viruses.
Dry and itchy skin
Winter worries and health hazards are not restricted to communicable diseases. During the cold season, a large number of people experience excessive skin dryness. The humidity in the air outdoors drops notably and causes the skin to dry.
The parched and dried up skin can further cause itching. You can see your skin turn red and rough during this season.
One of the most common winter health hazards is the high prevalence of joint pains. This is especially frequent in elder people who suffer from arthritis.
It is because there is a sudden drop in the atmospheric pressure outside. This drop makes the joints more sensitive to pain. People who live with other musculoskeletal disorders may also experience heightened ache and stiffness.
You must have noticed a sudden change in your mood when the weather changes. A large number of people experience seasonal depression or ‘winter blues’. This condition is medically called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
It is primarily because there is less sun exposure. Studies have shown that our bodies respond differently to daylight when the cold weather begins. As winter days are comparatively short and dark, there is a shift in mood during this time of the year.
Frostbite is a condition when the tissues right under the skin freezes due to a drop in temperature. It is an important cold-weather health hazard to avoid, especially for people who have sensitive skin types.
Frostbites are not very common among the Indian population. However, it affects the more exposed small parts of the body like fingers. The early warning signs of frostbite include numbness, clumsiness and pale skin.
Who is at most risk of winter health hazards?
The flu cannot identify whether you are a man or woman, young or old, healthy or unhealthy. Almost every person is susceptible to cold-weather health hazards. However, there is a small set of people who are more vulnerable than others.
People who are at a higher risk of winter health problems include:
- Elderly people; over the age of 65 years
- Infants and babies under the age of 5 years
- People living with underlying medical conditions
- Pregnant women or new mothers
- People living with disabilities
The safety challenges for the above group are higher than usual. People who fall under these categories should exercise added precautions.
How to prevent cold-weather health hazards?
These winter worries and health hazards can affect any person who does not rehearse proper caution. The following are some expert-advised tips to practice in order to prevent these illnesses:
Wear a mask
Coronavirus has ensured that no individual is left unmasked. Nonetheless, wearing a mask does not only protect from COVID-19 but also these popular winter worries.
Seasonal illnesses like the common cold and flu are communicable diseases. They can easily transmit from one person to another. Protective gear like a face mask stops the transfer of the flu-carrying droplets.
Moisturise your skin
Winters can be extra harsh on the skin. Dryness and itching of the skin is a very popular problem. One way to deal with this winter worry is to regularly moisturise your skin. You can use a light body lotion, body butter and homemade milk-based creams for this purpose.
Skin dryness can affect sensitive areas of your face as well, such as your lips. You can apply petroleum jelly for chapped lips. If the skin itching continues or develops into rashes, you should consult a dermatologist immediately.
Exercise in moderation
People who confront endearing joint pain during winters should not entirely give up on exercising. You should choose to exercise indoors to keep your joints moving.
You can take online yoga or aerobic classes to keep up the habit of working out. You are advised to not put excessive pressure. If the pain increases, meet an orthopedist as urgently as possible.
Wear appropriate winter clothing
Remember when your mother would dress you in childhood, she would always put on one extra layer of clothing. This trick may be old but very useful in preventing seasonal illnesses.
You should aim to stay as warm as possible, mainly while stepping outdoors. You should ensure to conceal most parts of your body. Protective winter wear includes warmers, caps, gloves, socks, scarves and more.
Keep distance from one another
The Winter season gives us all the more reason to apply social distancing. The aim is to terminate the flow of viruses. By maintaining a healthy physical distance from each other, we can ensure that there is no transmission of diseases. You must make certain to practice this tip, especially while participating in a festive celebration.
Winter season calls for an increased need for sanitation and cleanliness. The different types of bacteria and viruses can latch on surfaces. They can further pass on from one person to another through these surfaces. It is necessary to properly clean and sanitise your surroundings if you wish to stay clear of health concerns.
Drink plenty of warm fluids
One of the top tips to protect elderly from winter hazards is to feed them essential warm drinks. We tend to drink less water during cold weather. This habit can lead to dehydration and pose harm. Thereby, you should aim at drinking as many warm fluids as possible.
Warm water, tea (preferably green tea), vegetable or chicken soups and more should be consumed. You can also offer warm flavored milk to children and elders.
Use electric heaters
You can catch cold-weather illnesses more easily if you make rounds outdoors. This is why you should spend as much time possible in a moderately warm surrounding. You can utilise electrical room heaters to keep the environment cosy.
Winter health hazards can be effectively prevented by taking these safety measures. By carrying out these pointers, you will also keep yourself protected from the risk of coronavirus. These tips to prevent cold-weather winter hazards are practical and only require little attention.
For more information or personalised guidance, you can book an appointment with Dr Tushar Tayal, senior Internal Medicine expert at CK Birla Hospital.