Stay safe and healthy in winter
Although winter comes as no surprise, many of us are not ready for its arrival. If you are prepared for the hazards of winter, you will be more likely to stay safe and healthy when temperatures start to fall. Several health conditions are specially associated with the climatic conditions during this season.
Preventing colds, flu and infection
Colds and flu are particularly common in winter. Viruses cause the common cold. Flu (influenza) is caused by a different group of viruses. Antibiotics are not a suitable treatment for colds and flu because antibiotics target bacteria, not viruses.
Take steps to protect yourself from colds and flu this season. To do this you need to:
* get immunized and protect yourself from flu
* cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
* throw tissues in the bin after you use them
* wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze
* use alcohol based hand sanitizers
* avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as germs spread this way
* try to avoid close contact with people who have a flu-like illness.
If you have flu-like symptoms you should:
* stay home from work or school
* Limit contact with other people to keep from infecting them.
No treatment will cure your cold, or make it go away more quickly, but if you get plenty of rest and stay hydrated you can expect to recover quicker. Taking paracetamol will help to relieve your headache, muscle aches and reduce your fever. Discuss medicines with your doctor before using or giving to children to make sure they are safe. The flu vaccination can help to protect you against getting the flu.
Eat nutritious food
Eating food high in nutritional value will feed your body the vitamins, rich carbohydrates and fats that give you the nourishment you need to recover more quickly. While, it may be tempting to eat more food in winter, it is better to eat a well-balanced diet throughout the year.
Try to include foods in your diet that are:
* high in antioxidants, protein and fiber
* high in vitamins B, C, D and E
* Low in sugars and fats.
Drink plenty of water
It's also important to hydrate yourself by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. In summer, the hot weather reminds us that we are thirsty. It's easy to neglect hydration when the weather becomes cooler because we think our body doesn't need any more water.
Skin problems, like eczema, also become more common in the winter because of the change in temperature. Keeping your body well hydrated will help to keep your skin healthy and flush out toxins.
Keep yourself active
It's common to feel less motivated during the winter months and even getting out of bed can sometimes feel like a chore. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a condition associated with winter, and can be offset by keeping active and maintaining regular contact with others. Try to get into a routine of getting out and doing some exercise, whether it is walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift or escalator instead swap your normal routine by go for a daily walk.
Stay warm and consider others
Winter can be a tough time for many people in our community. Cold weather is especially dangerous for older people and people with pre-existing or chronic health conditions.
People with heart conditions or respiratory (breathing) problems including children wheezing may have worse symptoms during a cold spell and for several days after temperatures return to normal.
To keep warm and well during periods of cold weather you should:
* keep curtains drawn and doors closed to block draughts
* have regular hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day if possible
* eating regularly helps keep energy levels up during winter
* Wear several light layers of warm clothes keep as active as possible.
As colds and flu are more common in winter, the change of climate can trigger asthma attacks in children. Breathing in cold air, and mould associated with winter climates, can also induce asthma symptoms.
Asthma symptoms include:
* coughing - possibly starting with a dry cough
* wheezing - a whistling or high pitched sound which may be heard as air is pushed out of narrow tight airways
* Shortness of breath - breathing may become quicker and shallow. This leads to breaths out which are prolonged and forced
* tight chest - younger children may describe tummy ache, due the work of the "tummy" muscle (diaphragm) to assist with the work of breathing
* Possible vomiting associated with severe attacks.
Severe asthma symptoms include:
* feeling very distressed and frightened
* gasping for breath
* being unable to speak more than single words
* struggling to breathe
* Frequently sucking in at the throat and tummy (stomach).
Life threatening asthma symptoms include:
* being unable to move and speak
* appearing pale and blue around the lips
* No audible wheezing.
What you need to do
* Asthma can be treated by using medicated inhalers.
* If you have asthma and are experiencing symptoms, follow the advice of your asthma action plan.
* People experiencing asthma for the first time, should see their doctor for a diagnosis.
* If you, your child, or someone you know is experiencing severe or life threatening asthma symptoms seek urgent medical attention.
* Staying active, keeping warm and eating nutritious food will boost your immunity.
* Children are more susceptible to asthma attacks during winter.
* You have a higher risk of developing health complications if you have a respiratory condition.
* Immunization can help protect you from getting the flu.