Although winter is a pleasant time of the year, it poses its known set of problems and health issues particularly for young children and elderly.
Some of the effects of winter on our health and body are:
1. Bronchial Asthma
Asthma is basically reversible obstruction of the airway in the hyperactive which can be triggered by factors like pollen, dust, cold air, physical exertion. Asthma doesn’t result in itching, runny nose, rather it causes inflammation in the lungs that makes it difficult for the patient to breathe. The person usually gets breathless during an attack of asthma and is gasping for air.
The cold weather makes asthma condition worse because when the patients breathe cold air rapidly, it may cause shock to lungs which are at a relatively warm temperature. Thus, in response to the difference in temperature, lungs become inflamed which consecutively leads to an asthma attack. The other reason that winter makes a miserable condition for asthma patients is that winter carries along with itself sniffles and flu which have the potential to exacerbate asthma symptoms.
2. Common cold
There is a common perception that as the winter arrives, the probability of catching a cold and falling sick increases. The common cold is caused by a virus. The virus infects the nasal and throat lining. The usual presentation is running nose, dry cough and gritty feeling at the back of throat/throat ache.
Not that the virus spreads more easily in cold weather, but because of cold air, the nasal and oral secretions dry up. These secretions normally act as a protective layer providing local immunity against germs and viruses. Because of this dryness, the virus clings on to the lining and causes infection. On the other hand, when the temperature drops, certain harmful microorganisms can suddenly get active, multiply and attack. The antibodies in our body start fighting with these foreign organisms n many ways, one of which is by increasing the body temperature (fever).The old people and babies are at the edge who can catch a cold on the arrival of the winter season.
Usually, chronic inflammatory joint disease flare up during winters. It is believed that this can be due to spasm of muscles and inflammatory changes in the joint fluid. Regular physical activity and exercise help prevent joint pain. When having joint pains, regular applications of warm water fomentation and over the counter pain relief ointments are helpful.Scientists have found that the drop in temperature tends to accompany cooler, damper weather that could allow tissues in joints to swell and put pressure on nerves that control pain signals.
If you have a family history of arthritis or you are already a patient of it, we advise you to cover your hands with good quality gloves right from the beginning of winters. To reduce the winter effects, patients may also make use of topical gems and creams that sink in to provide pain relief exactly where it’s needed.
4. Heart attack
A heart attack is caused due to the relative inadequate blood supply to the heart muscle with respect to its need. In cold weather usually, there occurs constriction (narrowing) of blood vessels to maintain temperature regulation. Hence the heart has to function more vigorously to maintain blood supply to all the organs and extremities. This causes a mismatch between the oxygen supplied to the heart muscle as compared to its demand and increases the chances of heart attack.
The other reason includes that people tend to eat unhealthy and oily foods in winters to keep their bodies warm but you must know that saturated fat is linked to cardiovascular problems. Moreover, doctors believe that brown fat promotes narrowing of arteries when a person is exposed to low temperatures. It is because as the temperature in the body decreases, the growth of atherosclerotic plaque made up of fat and cholesterol increases.
5. Dry Skin
Winters dry the skin. Sweating occurs less frequently in winters to maintain temperature regulation. Dehydration worsens this scenario as we tend to drink less water and fluids in winter. We must agree that in winters we have the habit of bathing in warm water, which dehydrates the outer skin thus making it dry. Moreover, we wear woolen stuffed clothing which causes increased friction thus promoting skin dryness.
Depression or ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ is common in the winters. It is hypothesized that this may be due to chemical/serotonin imbalance in the nerve junctions of the brain caused due to decreased exposure to sunlight and daylight hours. Moreover, some people believe that as the days get shorter, we start feeling more cranky, lethargic and tired than usual. Antidepressants is a choice to combat depression in winters but you must try to go on a morning walk or get outside when some rare sunlight appears.