With winter season on the anvil, there is palpable relief among people from the long and scorching summer heat. However, as the season changes from hot to cold, it is important to take necessary precautions to prevent diseases and health disorders common in the cooler months.
So, while the winter season brings with it the good news of declining dengue and chikungunya cases, it also marks the beginning of increase in problems such as common cold, influenza, sore throat, asthma, bronchitis attacks and pneumonias. People with arthritis also experience increase in joint aches as atmospheric pressure changes. At the same time, winter allergies are another source of health problems in the colder months.
“Different types of bacteria and viruses survive in different seasons. Some are active in summers, others find colder temperatures more amenable to survive and spread. As winters sets in we invariably see a rise in cases of common cold and sore throat. Even episodes of heart attacks are more in winters as extreme cold can puts excessive strain on a heart patient. Cold air also propels more asthma attacks. While all of us should be careful about these conditions, vulnerable people such as children and elderly much be carefully protected,” said Dr. Yadvarinder Singh Bath, Consultant Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital, Patiala
With winter about to set in, we need to prepare for the environmental change that our bodies will experience not just by pulling out warm clothes and blankets but also by raising our guard against winter related sicknesses.
Common winter illnesses and prevention
Asthma & Bronchitis
“Asthma is often triggered by exposure to cold air. People with asthma will experience symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath more often in winters than in summers. It is important to adopt prevention mechanisms while the weather is transitioning,” said Dr. Yadvarinder Singh Bath, Consultant Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital, Patiala
Start exercising indoors, restrain from stepping out in early mornings and late evenings when weather is cooler. On particularly cold days, it is better for you to stay indoors if you are asthmatic. Cover your mouth and nose with a warm scarf or wear a face mask to prevent cold air from entering your airways.
Influenza or flu
Influenza virus is also more active during the colder months. Older people with other health conditions are highly vulnerable to serious illness if they contract flu. In fact, a number of deaths in older people are attributed to flu during winters.
“To prevent flu, it is important to protect yourself from the virus. Wash your hands several times a day; avoid touching your face with your hands as they may be carrying the virus; avoid getting into contact with people who are ill. If you are above 60 years of age, better get a flu shot (vaccination) before the onset of winters,” said Dr. Yadvarinder Singh Bath, Consultant Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital, Patiala
Incidents of heart attacks invariably increase during the winter months. Cold weather can put a lot of strain on the heart of people who have cardiovascular diseases. So that the physical tasks that you normally perform in warmer temperatures become more stressful for you in winters. Cold is also believed to up the blood pressure. If you are a heart patient, do not stress yourself physically, and make sure you rush to hospital immediately if you experience any kind of chest discomfort.
In winters allergans such as dust mites and mold spores cause greater number of allergic reactions. Weather irritants like pet dander, mildew and mold are present in the air throughout the year, but the reason they become active in winters is because people shut down all the windows with room heaters and temperature controllers switched on to avoid cold. The warm atmosphere becomes perfect place for them to breed and come in contact with human beings. Allergies like asthma get aggravated when a patient inhales mold spores, dust mites or pet saliva or other such triggers.
Make sure you ventilate your house properly even if it is cold; regularly vaccum clean your carpets, pillows, mattresses, blankets and wardrobes to minimize occurrence of allergens. Removing carpets altogether is a good way of minimizing allergies. Get room heaters and air conditioning units cleaned regularly. Maintain a minimum humidity level inside the house with the humidifier and dehumidifier to prevent growth of dust mites.