The doctor is in: The ills of winter

Here’s how to stay fit in the coming months

The doctor is in: The ills of winter
People with weakened immune systems or health issues such as asthma, heart disease, or even cancer are more likely to contract pneumonia.

By Dr Tarun Sahni

Is there any cause for concern regarding the spike in covid cases with the change in weather?
Incidence of coughs, colds and other respiratory illnesses increase with onset of cold weather. Covid-19 also has similar symptoms. It is evident that with time, people are developing immunity for Covid-19 and as time is passing by, Covid-19 will also become like a normal flu. However, people should not let their guard down and follow proper Covid-19 precautions protocol.

What are the other ailments to be cautious about in the coming months?
During winters, a variety of health issues affect people all over the world. Listed below are some common seasonal diseases and their prevention:

Common cold: Winter’s shorter days and longer nights result in less sunlight exposure and lower levels of natural vitamin D, which helps to power the immune system. As a result, we are more susceptible to infection. The cold virus spreads more quickly in the cold. To reduce your chances of getting a common cold, it is recommended that you increase your intake of proper diet, rest and regular exercise and take precautions against cold exposure.
Flu: The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus and known as ‘influenza.’ It can also be mild or severe. A flu patient, like a cold patient, suffers from body aches, sore throats, fever, headaches and other symptoms that can ruin the season. Maintain good respiratory hygiene by covering your face in crowds or if meeting someone with influenza.
Strep throat: A sore throat is extremely irritating and uncomfortable. However, strep throat is far worse! Strep throat is a severe form of sore throat that is accompanied by a fever caused by an infection. It is caused by a bacterial infection and affects a large number of children. Strep throat symptoms include difficulty and pain swallowing food or water, headache, swollen lymph nodes, fever and so on. You should see a doctor and he may prescribe antibiotics, fever medicines and bed rest.
Bronchitis: Bronchitis is common in children and toddlers under the age of two and in elders. Breathing difficulties are caused by the inflammation of airway passages in the lungs as they become clogged. Bronchitis patients experience a mild fever, nasal congestion, wheezing and coughing. It is important to stay hydrated and to sleep more to avoid this problem. Consult your doctor at the earliest.
Pneumonia: Pneumonia is another common lung infection in the winter. A bacterial disease can be mild or severe in nature and if mild, it can be treated at home; however, if severe, hospitalisation is required. People with weakened immune systems or health issues such as asthma, heart disease, or even cancer are more likely to contract pneumonia.

Also Read: Here’s how sitting can not not make you obese, but also also disrupt your sleep

What are the general precautions to take in changing weather?
India has four seasons and the transition from one to the next is constant. Summer, monsoon, winter, and spring are the four major seasons in India. Every season has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. As the seasons change, so does our proclivity to become ill. Listed below are a few precautions one should take in changing weather:

When going outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting clothing, mittens, a hat, and a face mask.
Include vitamin C in your diet. Vitamin C aids the body in combating cold, flu, and other common winter ailments.
Practice meditation or any kind of physical exercise. When you are less anxious and stressed, your body is better able to fight infections.
Influenza vaccines are now strongly recommended in senior citizens and those prone to lung infections.

What should people in pollution-prone cities do?
Mentioned below are a few precautionary measurements people can inherit in pollution-prone cities:

The first step in keeping smoky air out of your home is to keep your windows closed. Circulation and filtration would be the next steps.
Use fans to circulate the air in your home, and use filters to remove particles if possible. Check your filter to see if it needs to be replaced.
For the time being, avoid vacuuming, dusting, and doing anything that stirs up dust particles. These activities can worsen indoor air quality. Wet mopping and vacuuming with HEPA-filtered vacuums are safer cleaning alternatives.
When it’s smokey outside, you should avoid all outdoor activities. This includes running and other forms of recreation. If you can smell smoke, you should avoid going outside.
Cloth masks are typically ineffective against smoke. To protect yourself from smoke, wear an N95 mask that filters out fine particles. Cloth masks typically allow fine particles to pass through.
Air filters in central air conditioning can remove smoke particles from the air while also cleaning and clarifying the air in your home. Be aware that not all filters are capable of capturing and filtering out smoke particles. HEPA filters, which are widely available, are particularly effective at filtering out smoke particles. Air filters should be replaced according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Filter devices frequently have lights or sensors that indicate the need for cleaning, if possible or replacement. Keeping your filter clean will ensure that particles are consistently removed from your home air.

What lifestyle changes can help in the winter months?
Winter is the time to strengthen our immune systems and nourish our bodies. Eating nutritious warm food, sleeping well, and staying active are all important aspects of staying healthy during the winter. Here are a few more lifestyle changes to incorporate during the winter months:

Healthy diet: A well-balanced diet rich in whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, and plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables is essential for immune system health.
We can increase intake of vitamin C-rich foods to strengthen our immune system.
Exercise: Yoga or any form of physical activity on a daily basis will help to keep you warm and boost your immune system.
Skincare: Winter skincare must include moisturising, applying sun protection creams, and increasing water intake.
Vitamin status: Monitor your vitamin B12 and D3 levels. Both of these deficiencies can exaggerate fatigue and disrupt the body’s natural rhythm.
Get natural light: Getting enough natural light throughout the day can help you feel more awake and prevent winter fatigue.

Dr Tarun Sahni is senior consultant, internal medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi

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First published on: 09-10-2022 at 00:15 IST