October has come to an end. Winter is knocking on the door. Lazing around the cosy corners of your home with a hot cup of coffee might feel perfect. But don’t let your guard down completely: the season of comfort has its own set of discomforts. The change in temperature provides a favourable environment for many allergens, viruses and bacteria, causing a spike in respiratory diseases. Sometimes, the change in weather also worsens an existing illness.
Here are the top five illnesses that get worse in the winter, and what to do about them:
Though you can get a common cold at any time of the year, it is more common during the winter. Why? Because our body loses heat rapidly as the environmental temperature drops. The result: we catch a cold. Globally, common colds are among the top reasons for taking the day off from work or school.
How to prevent it: A common cold is a viral infection that spreads easily through the air. Keep your distance from people who seem sick. Wash your hands regularly, especially before eating. Cover your mouth when you sneeze: try covering it with your forearm or the crook of your arm rather than the palm – you probably shake hands with dozens of people during the day and they may not have been so fastidious about washing their hands.
A flu jab!
The flu is caused by the influenza virus. The symptoms look very similar to a common cold – the flu is just more severe. As the flu also spreads through the air, it’s a good idea to cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
According to the UK-based National Health Service, immunocompromised patients, as well as people living with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease and chronic obstructive respiratory illness (COPD) are at higher risk of getting the flu.
How to prevent it: Get annual flu shots. Drink lots of water. Get seven to eight hours of sleep. Eat healthy. Exercise. If you’re caring for someone who’s sick, wear a mask over your nose and mouth. The ushe.
Also known as chest cold, acute bronchitis is a severe infection of the upper airways – the bronchi. Typically caused by bacteria, the symptoms of this respiratory infection include cough, shortness of breath, fever, chest congestion and discomfort.
How to manage it: Being a viral infection, it usually subsides within a week. However, a humidifier or steam can ease the discomfort. Drinking plenty of fluids and resting adequately also help, according to the American Lung Association.
Winter air is dry. And dry air is a potential irritant for the airways. On exposure to an irritant, the muscles of the airways spasm (undergo sudden contractions), thereby blocking the respiratory tract. Along with cold and cough, asthma gets more severe in the winter. People with a history of asthma should be more careful.
How to prevent an asthma attack: Avoid exposure to the cold air. Wear layers and cover yourself adequately. Take your medicines on time to reduce the chances of an asthmatic attack on colder days. Always keep your inhaler with you.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Usually seen in the elderly population, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a collection of lung diseases which restrict the air passage, making it difficult to breathe. Dry air worsens the condition. Sitting near a fireplace may ensure warm air but the smoke and fumes can exacerbate COPD.
How to manage it: A humidifier and a blanket can help. Keep yourself covered and avoid exposure to the cold air. Take your medicines on time.
This article was written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.