Top 4 Winter Health Hazards and How to Avoid Them
Winter is here and along with hot cocoa and cozy evenings come unique hazards of the season. Taking smart steps in this month can set you up for wellbeing for the year.
Colds and Other Respiratory Illnesses
Colds, influenza, and other respiratory illnesses peak in the wintertime. Being smart about protecting your body in the harsh environment can help keep illness away.
- Most wintertime colds and respiratory illnesses are spread via contact or droplets.
- Wash your hands often. The best way to prevent infections is hand washing so you’re not bringing those germs you picked up from the outside world into your body. This is particularly important before you eat or touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. These body parts have mucous membranes that provide an entry point for germs.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf to keep your airways warm and keep germs in the air out.
When it’s cold and dry outside, the humidity level in the air drops, leading to dry skin. There are some easy fixes to combat this wintertime nuisance.
- Use a humidifier in your home to increase the moisture in the environment.
- Limit your shower or bath to 5-10 minutes. If you bath longer than that, you may wash away the skin’s oily layer that keeps moisture in your skin.
- Use mild soaps. Many traditional soaps alkalinize the skin and can cause damage to the natural skin moisture barrier. Instead, use synthetic detergent cleaners (e.g. Dove, Olay, Cetaphil) or other mild cleansers.
- Use moisturizers daily, and apply immediately after bathing. Lotions are beneficial for normal to slightly dry skin. Creams are better for dry to excessively dry skin.
Many people feel fatigued and sluggish during the winter season and can even suffer from seasonal affective disorder. How can you keep your energy levels up?
- Get light — Get as much natural light as possible, particularly early in the morning. 30 minutes of light per day can make a significant improvement to mood. For those who cannot get outside, an alternative is bright light therapy (10,000 lux light box) for 30 minutes
- Exercise — Find an exercise routine that you can stick to through the winter. Exercise has so many benefits for health, including lifting one’s mood. More exercise is better, but a routine that you can stick to is best.
- Be social — In the winter, we tend to hibernate indoors and be less social. However, we know that socializing and strong relationships with others is tightly correlated to happiness. Make an effort to get social plans on the calendar.
Wait gain during winter is a common problem. Cold weather, lack of Vitamin D, and hormonal changes are all contributors. Finding simple rules to follow is a way to keep weight off.
- Eat more whole foods, less processed foods, and even less very processed foods. A general rule of thumb is the longer the ingredient list, and the more ingredients you don’t recognize, the more processed the food.
- Focus on fiber. Aiming for 30 grams per day can help promote weight loss and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Be wary of the stealth calories in beverages, including juices, alcohol, soda, and lattes. While these can come packed with calories, the body doesn’t detect them the same way it does solid food. When people increase their solid food intake, they typically compensate by eating less. This compensation doesn’t happen with liquid calories, and instead, the liquid calories are additive to the daily total.
- Cook! Cooking at home is a great way to ensure you are implementing the rules above.
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