The clocks go back on Saturday/Sunday this weekend. Plunging us into darkness again. Causing an abundance of illnesses. Take a look at our self-help guide to keep you well and warm.
WHAT YOU DON’T WANT TO HEAR WITH THE PARTY SEASON IN FULL SWING ALCOHOL IS WORSE FOR YOU IN WINTER
Alcohol causes a rush of blood to the surface of the skin where most of your heat sensors are. This might make you feel warm momentarily. Alcohol causes your blood vessels to dilate, particularly just under the surface of your skin, so the blood cools rapidly. As it is taking blood away from the internal organs which causes the body temperature to drop, you can in effect end up feeling colder. When the weather is cold, studies have shown that drinking alcohol
reduces the body’s ability to shiver (where the rapid contraction of muscles would normally produce heat). Taking away another valuable method your body uses to keep warm.
Winter weather really can trigger joint pain. People with Arthritis and joint pain are badly affected by cold, damp, humidity and a drop in temperature. The link between pain and these conditions may be related because of the difference in density of muscles, tendons and bone, which contract at different rates. Cold weather also has a negative effect on mood which makes our pain thresholds generally lower as we are missing the feel good factor of bright sunny days.
As well as wearing warm clothing, try using heat packs or warm baths and trying to keep active for 40 minutes each day to keep the joints mobile. If the weather isn’t too bad try going for a walk outside, If it isn’t very nice perhaps a stroll around a shopping centre or suitable indoor area.
Asthma sufferers can become really poorly in cold weather as it can make asthma symptoms worse. Cold air itself can irritate the airways, causing them to constrict, triggering coughing and wheezing while colds & flu can inflame the airways. In really cold weather hospital admissions peak. It is recommended taking one or 2 puffs on your blue (reliever) inhaler before going outside or starting exercising.
Approximately 7,000 hospital admissions each year, are attributed to people slipping on snow or ice. These falls can be really bad for the elderly, as a serious fracture could be fatal. Hip fracture rates are much higher in the winter months. It is recommended to wear firm shoes with good grip and walk in a way that maximises the foot’s gripping surface area. Try to stomp your whole foot down rather than going from heel to toe, sliding or dragging your feet. If you can’t afford to buy a good pair of winter shoes you can buy a set of spikes that slip over the soles of your shoes for around £5.
If you are prone to allergies these can be triggered by real fir trees or plastic ones. When you unwrap your plastic tree this can cause a multitude of problems. Such as asthma, eczema, blocked nose or streaming eyes to name a few. So as soon as you open up your tree vacuum and or hose it down. All types of trees can accumulate the mould which releases spores and dust. By looking after your artificial tree. Wrapping and storing them well to protect them from mould, house dust mites and worse.
With the central heating on drying the indoor air, our tears evaporate more quickly. On top of this the cold air outside contains less moisture which means we can find ourselves with dry eyes. When our eyes become dry they become irritated, causing the cells that produce tears to shut down to protect themselves from the irritation. When the environment we live and work in are dry, we need to blink more to compensate. This helps produce more tears but the tears we produce though are not as effective at lubricating the eyes. This causes inflammation, which can spread and cause red, itchy, sore eyelids, which stick together and become crusty or greasy – blepharitis, (a painful inflammation of the eye). Your doctor can prescribe ‘artificial tears’ eye drops to help with this problem, or they can be purchased from most chemists.
If you are over 65, pregnant, overweight or anyone with impaired immunity or health conditions such as asthma. Children aged 2 to 6, will be given it as a nasal spray. You should ask at your GPs surgery whether you qualify for a free jab. If not, pharmacies offer a walk-in jab service from around £12.99. It can take 3 weeks for a jab’s protection to kick in. So aim to have it in October before the flu season starts. An influenza specialist, says the jab could be particularly useful if you are overweight as they are more likely to get flu and suffer complications.
With the party season coming into full swing. Try using a different hand than the one you would eat with to touch public areas such as handles, lift buttons, shopping trollies and to greet people to name but a few. This will reduce the chance of those illness-causing bacteria and bugs such as campylobacter, E.coli or norovirus bacteria being transferred to your mouth, making you ill. Cleaning your hands regularly with an antibacterial gel to kill off any cold or flu viruses, particularly at this time of year.
People can have an outbreak of hives in cold weather when there is a sudden drop in temperature. This is an itchy, bumpy, red rash (known as cold-induced urticaria). Your chemist can confirm if this is what the problem is and supply you with an over-the-counter antihistamine.
IMMUNE SYSTEM & SLEEP
Lack of sleep affects the body’s immune system. It is a fact that if you sleep for less than 7 hours a night, you could be 3 times more likely to catch a cold than a person who gets 8 hours. Disturbed sleep interferes with the workings of an immunity gene called TLR9. When chemicals controlled by the gene are high, we are more able to withstand infection. Levels of the gene can be lowered by poor sleep, jet lag, and night time light pollution. If you are fighting off a cold extra sleep is very important because energy resources are diverted to the immune system from the muscles and brain.
People who have sex once or twice a week, which, apart from being signs of a happy and healthy relationship gives relaxation and social support. Both of which have been shown to boost the immune system. These people have 30% higher levels of the cold-fighting immunoglobulin, than those who had it less frequently so don’t let your fear of germs stop you getting intimate. Having more sex than that doesn’t mean you gain more. People having very frequent sex, 3 times a week or more – had lower levels of IgA than people who don’t have sex at all. The assumption of that being that people in the very frequent group may be in obsessive or poor relationships that are causing them a lot of anxiety which causes IgA to go down.
Believe it or not, teeth can be especially sensitive in winter months as the icy air stimulates the nerves exposed by damaged enamel or receding gums. Using a toothpaste specifically for sensitive teeth which works by filling the microscopic holes in the enamel. Each brand contains slightly different ingredient combinations. As with anything your body gets used to, it is worth changing brands every once in a while.
If someone in close proximity to you is coughing or sneezing, turn your head away for 10 seconds while the air clears. Try sitting away from this person. The cold virus can survive on a touched article for 48 hours. You only need 1-30 droplets to catch a virus. One sneeze can send 100,000 virus-containing droplets into the air. Each droplets can travel as far as 3.5 metres through the air. The flu virus live longer when air is cold and dry. Wash your pillow case at least once a week or daily if you share a bed with a person who is poorly to prevent the spread of germs. A 60c hot wash will get rid of any of the nasty viruses. Another thing cold, dry air does is aggravate skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, as the skin is deprived of surface moisture from the air. If you use humidifier unit on your desk or bedroom in the winter months, it is important to clean it regularly to prevent the build-up of mould, mildew and bacteria in the device. (Following the manufacturers’ instructions). You don’t have to spend a lot of money to humidify your home. This can be done by leaving your bath water in after you get out and letting it cool naturally, causing moisture to evaporate into the air before pulling the plug. If you use a shower just open the shower door after showering. You can also place a dish of water near a radiator this is just as effective.
VITAMIN D & SAD
Vitamin D is produced by our body in response to sunlight. Lack of sunlight makes you more tired and sluggish. Especially when it is dark when we go out to work and again when we get home. We also get vitamin D from some foods eg: eggs, meat and oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Use of a daylight lamp for 30 minutes each morning can help people who don’t sleep well in winter. This is a symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Daylight helps trigger the production of the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate our mood and sleep patterns. If you suffer really badly from SAD. You can purchase a ‘Light Therapy lamp’.
IF ALL FAILS AND YOU DO FALL ILL
Rinsing your nose to combat colds. You might be able to protect against cold bugs by using a saline nasal spray to moisten the lining of your nose.
A 2012 study found that nasal irrigation, as it is known, led to a significant reduction in coughs and colds among children. It is thought the additional moisture helps the cilia (hair-like structures lining the nose) to do a better job of keeping out bacteria and viruses, counteracting the drying effect of cold air and central heating. Vicks Vapo-Spray or other remedies are available via your Doctor or chemist.
Echinacea can boost the immune system by stimulating the activity of white blood cells. There are different varieties of Echinacea. Drops, capsules, tablets, lozenges which could have a beneficial antiviral effect.
Many over-the-counter cough remedies are little more than sticky sugar syrup, which soothes a cough by coating the throat. This does still give you relief.
If you’re on any medication, get your doctor or chemists OK before you try an over-the-counter cough treatment or anything else. They know what medication you are on and how whatever you purchase will or can affect you individually.
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF AND HAVE A HAPPY HEALTHY CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR