The temperatures are officially dropping as we head into our colder months of the year. Here, we take a look at the ultimate winter survival guide, and get advice from Australian GP, Dr Chris Moy. He shares useful information and offers expert winter health tips. Read on to find out more about how to keep some of those more common seasonal ailments at bay.
What are the winter health tips for common seasonal ailments?
“Cold exposure will cause increased risk of the virus becoming active,” says GP Dr Chris Moy. “In winter you’re more likely to get a cold or flu. And that’s why you tend to get cold sores because it’s during a viral infection, so your immune system is down. Any sort of physical or emotional stress causes cold sores, to some degree, as well.”
As for avoiding the dreaded sores, Dr Moy offers this winter health tip: “Don’t get so cold that your lips feel frozen”.
Also, try putting on some lip balm. It’ll help keep your lips hydrated and protect them from dry winter winds. Windproof your lips by hydrating with balm.
Norovirus is a highly contagious type of gastro that causes vomiting and diarrhoea. It has gained the nickname “winter vomiting”. This is because cases often increase in the colder months because more people are indoors together. So, it’s more easily caught and spread. To keep yourself as safe as possible from norovirus, Dr Moy suggests adopting three simple but effective principles.
1). “Wash your hands properly with soap and water,” he says.
2). “Wipe things down. Think flat surfaces, keyboards and telephones.”
3). “Cover up when you cough or sneeze. It’s all general hygiene, really.”
If you are unlucky enough to contract the virus, do your best to stay as hydrated as possible. “Use fluids like Gastrolyte or Hydralyte,” says Dr Moy.
“Drink small amounts frequently, so it’s a large amount over time.” Avoid drinking anything with sugar as it can act as a laxative. You’ll have to ride this virus out over 24 to 48 hours.
Aches & pains
“When it’s colder, there’s a whole number of things that cause our joints to ache,” says Dr Moy. “There’s the fact that the muscles are not warmed up, so they’re going to be stiffer because of it. People are not as active. Also, your body tries to conserve heat during winter so the blood goes to the organs (such as the heart and lungs). It stays away from the outside parts of your body like your arms and legs.”
As for how to combat the stiffness, it’s pretty simple. Just rug up in appropriate clothing, keep moving, warm up before you do exercise and cool down with some stretches. And remember, it’s not abnormal to suffer from joint stiffness during this season. But if you are at all worried, always see your healthcare professional.
Cold & flu
Arguably the most common winter illness is the pesky common cold, or, the more serious influenza aka the flu.
Dr Moy advises following the previously mentioned three principles of hygiene to avoid contracting a cold, but to also invest in a flu shot.
“If you catch proper influenza, you are going to be sick as anything and it’ll take you out for quite a few days,” he says.
Just be aware the flu shot doesn’t actually stop you from catching the common cold, so to avoid colds, try to keep away from people who have it. And if you have it yourself, make sure you stay home from work or away from others – and get plenty of rest!
Rule number one: wash your hands!
What can you do to supersize your immunity?
These unlikely goodies can provide some further defence to your immune system in the colder months
You might first associate vitamin C with citrus fruits. But did you know red capsicum pepper contains twice as much of the vitamin as its zesty competition? While vitamin C won’t cure or totally prevent a cold, it quickly depletes. And a deficiency weakens the immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. Vitamin C also combats dry winter skin by aiding collagen production in the skin which promotes a vibrant, youthful glow.
Oats contain beta glucans. This is a soluble fibre that can help boost the immune system, speed up healing and fight infection. But steer clear of processed, flavoured kinds with added sugar.
This creamy treat (perfect with granola and berries!) is stocked full of B vitamins, folate and calcium. All these nutrients may boost immune function and help fight bad bacteria, according to Harvard Medical School.
Protein foods like chicken, turkey breast and lean red meats contain iron and zinc. These minerals are important to immunity. Zinc boosts T cells, which the immune system uses to fight infection. They are also thought to reduce the rate of lower respiratory tract infections. A healthy iron level aids immune system efficiency and helps transport oxygen in the blood.
Text credit: Gabriella Del Grande/BAUERSYNDICATION.COM.AU/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA
Compiled by Features Editor Stephanie van der Plank