The cold season is here and with it, a whole range of illnesses that could easily put you down. Betty Muindi highlights some of the diseases that are triggered or worsened by the chilly weather and tips on how to deal with them
A cold is a mild viral infection, which can result in a blocked nose, sore throat, and sinus problems. More severe symptoms include high temperature, headache and aching muscles.
You can help prevent colds by washing your hands regularly. This destroys bugs picked from surfaces used by other people, such as light switches and door handles.
2. Dry skin
A combination of cold weather and lack of sunlight can play havoc with skin. To treat it, regularly apply moisturiser to seal in the skin’s own moisture – the best time is after a warm (not hot) bath or shower, and before bed time.
The cold air in this season is a major trigger of asthma symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath. Rain and wind also stir up allergens, which can make asthma worse.
Additionally, working out in cold temperatures can be problematic — the cold air causes bronchoconstriction (narrowing of the airways), thus making it even harder to breathe. People who have this condition are advised to be cautious during this season by staying indoors.
And when it is windy outside, wear heavy clothing and a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth. Asthma patients should also have their medication and inhaler with them.
People who suffer from arthritis experience painful and stiff joints during the cold weather. Although there’s no evidence that cold weather can cause joint pain, doctors think that everything feels worse including medical conditions when the cold is biting. Daily exercise, especially can boost one’s mental and physical state.
5. Cold sores
While there is no cure for cold sores, you can reduce the chances of getting one by looking after yourself. For example, do things that will reduce stress such as having a hot bath, going for a walk or watching your favourite series.
6. Heart attacks
Heart attacks are more common during cold season. When it is cold, the blood pressure puts more strain on the heart. The heart also has to pump harder to maintain body heat when it is cold. People are advised to stay warm. At home, heat the main rooms you use and use a hot water bottle to keep warm in bed. Also, wrap up warm when you go out and wear a hat, scarf and gloves.
It is commonly known as flu. Factors such as temperature and humidity greatly influence flu seasons around the world. Scientists have found the virus was most transmitted at low temperatures and low humidity, conditions that match up with typical, cold season.
Flu can be a deadly illness if not handled properly. Vulnerable people are those aged 65 and above, pregnant women and people with long-term health conditions, including diabetes, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The best way to prevent getting flu is to be vaccinated.
Swelling and irritation in the air passages of the lungs often occurs in the cold weather. It often starts because of another illness, such as the cold or flu.
The most common symptom of acute bronchitis is a frequent cough. In healthy individuals, it usually goes away on its own. Though it is not a serious illness, it can last from a few days to over a month.
The flu virus is one of the most common causes of viral pneumonia and since the flu often occurs when it is cold, so does pneumonia. It causes the small air sacs in your lungs known as alveoli to fill with fluid.
It can be life-threatening for at-risk populations, such as children and the elderly. Patients are advised to seek medical advice as soon as possible.
10. Whooping cough
Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is most common in adolescents and adults. Like bronchitis, it is highly contagious and causes severe, violent, uncontrollable coughing.
It can go away in a few days if handled well. This condition is most fatal in young children who have not been vaccinated or those with weak immune systems.