The doctor is here: The evils of winter

By Dr. Tarun Sahni

Is there any reason to be concerned about the spike in covid cases with the change in weather?
The incidence of coughs, colds and other respiratory diseases increases with the onset of cold weather. Covid-19 also has similar symptoms. Obviously over time people develop immunity for Covid-19 and as time goes by Covid-19 will also become like normal flu. However, people should not let their guard down and follow the proper Covid-19 precautions protocol.

What are the other ailments to watch out for in the coming months?
During winters, a variety of health issues affect people all over the world. Here are some common seasonal illnesses and their prevention:

Colds: The shorter days and longer nights of winter lead to less sun exposure and lower levels of natural vitamin D, which helps boost the immune system. As a result, we are more susceptible to infections. The cold virus spreads faster in the cold. To reduce your risk of catching a cold, it is recommended that you increase your intake of food, rest and regular exercise and take precautions against exposure to cold.
Influenza: Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus and known as the “flu”. It can also be mild or severe. A patient with the flu, like a patient with a cold, 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 you encounter someone with the flu.
Strep Throat: A sore throat is extremely itchy and uncomfortable. However, strep throat is much 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. Symptoms of strep throat include difficulty and pain in swallowing food or water, headache, swollen lymph nodes, fever, etc. You should see a doctor and he may prescribe antibiotics, fever medication and bed rest.
Bronchitis: Bronchitis is common in children and toddlers under the age of two and in the elderly. Breathing difficulties are caused by inflammation of the airways in the lungs when they become blocked. Patients with bronchitis experience mild fever, nasal congestion, wheezing, and cough. It is important to stay hydrated and get more sleep to avoid this problem. Consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Pneumonia: Pneumonia is another common winter lung infection. Bacterial illness can be mild or severe, and if mild, it can be treated at home. however, if severe, hospitalization is required. People with weakened immune systems or who have health problems like asthma, heart disease or even cancer are more likely to get pneumonia.

Also Read: Here’s How Sitting Can’t Make You Obese, But It Can Also Disrupt Your Sleep

What are the general precautions to take in case of changeable weather?
India has four seasons and the transition from one to another is constant. Summer, monsoon, winter and spring are the four main seasons in India. Each season has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. As the seasons change, our propensity to get sick also changes. Here are some precautions to take in changeable weather:

When you go outside, wear several layers of loose clothing, mittens, a hat, and a face mask.
Include vitamin C in your diet. Vitamin C helps the body fight off colds, flu and other common winter ailments.
Practice meditation or any type of physical exercise. When you are less anxious and stressed, your body is better able to fight infections.
Flu shots are now strongly recommended for seniors and people prone to lung infections.

What should residents of pollution-prone cities do?
Below are some precautionary measures that people can inherit in pollution-prone cities:

The first step to keeping the 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 now, avoid vacuuming, dusting, and doing anything that stirs up dust particles. These activities can worsen indoor air quality. Damp mopping and vacuuming with HEPA filter vacuums are safer cleaning alternatives.
When it is smoky outside, you should avoid all outdoor activities. This includes running and other forms of recreation. If you smell smoke, avoid going outside.
Cloth masks are generally ineffective against smoke. To protect yourself from smoke, wear an N95 mask that filters out fine particles. Cloth masks generally allow fine particles to pass through.
Central air conditioning air filters can remove smoke particles from the air while cleaning and clarifying the air in your home. Be aware that not all filters are capable of capturing and filtering smoke particles. HEPA filters, which are widely available, are particularly effective at filtering smoke particles. Air filters should be replaced according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Filter devices often have lights or sensors that indicate the need for cleaning, if possible, or replacement. Keeping your filter clean will ensure that particles are constantly removed from the air in your home.

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

Healthy Eating: 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 the consumption of foods rich in vitamin C to strengthen our immune system.
Exercise: Yoga or any form of daily physical activity will help keep you warm and boost your immune system.
Skin care: Winter skin care should include moisturizing, applying sunscreen creams, and increasing water intake.
Vitamin status: Monitor your levels of vitamins B12 and D3. 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 Internal Medicine Consultant, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi

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