Ever feel like it’s harder to stay healthy during the winter than any other season? It’s not just your imagination.
Colds, flu cases, and other respiratory illnesses are more common during colder months. Additionally, people are indoors more often, allowing viruses to pass more easily from one family member to another.
To make matters worse, cold, dry winter air may also weaken your immune system and increase the risk of getting sick. It’s no wonder that most of us feel it’s hard to stay healthier around the holidays and into the new year.
Of course, temporary sickness like the flu isn’t the only thing to worry about in the winter: chronic conditions also tend to flare up, making it harder to stay comfortable and healthy when it’s cold outside.
In this blog, we’re discussing some of the health conditions that act up the most in the winter – and what you can do to help manage them.
Even though the weather might negatively affect some parts of your life, there are still plenty of winter hacks that will help you protect your mental health, monitor symptoms, and stay well.
(1) Respiratory Conditions
Cold weather can be incredibly hard on your respiratory health. Whether you have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or are simply predisposed to respiratory illness, you probably struggle the most with chronic respiratory conditions during the winter months.
Managing respiratory conditions requires careful attention and lots of preventative action. Here are a few tips to help you stay ahead of the worst symptoms:
- Use your prescribed inhaler and medications correctly.
- Avoid exposure to known allergens and triggers, like tobacco smoke.
- Wear scarves outside to help warm and humidify air before it enters the lungs.
- Wash or sanitize your hands frequently.
- Participate in regular exercise and stay active to maintain high lung function.
- Tell your doctor if you experience any chest pain or severe shortness of breath.
If you experience poor respiratory health in winter, you should also consider purchasing an air purifier for your home. Outdoor and indoor air quality tends to be worse in the cold months, so your family might breathe easier by cleaning the air inside your bedroom and living spaces.
The Importance of the Flu Vaccine
Another big thing you can do for your respiratory wellness is get your flu shot.
Influenza can turn into chronic lung disease (like COPD) or respiratory infections, especially if you’re already predisposed to breathing problems, so protect your immune system and stay safe by getting your flu shot – before it starts to spread through your family.
This skin disease plagues roughly 7.5 million people in the United States and is especially common in older adults between the ages of 45 and 64. Those with psoriasis tend to struggle with rashes that are itchy and scaly, likely on the knees, elbows, torso, or scalp.
Unfortunately, psoriasis tends to act up in dry air and low levels of sunlight exposure – which makes winter a difficult time for people with this condition.
If your psoriasis rash tends to worsen in the cold, your number one care strategy needs to be moisturizing. Properly hydrating and lotioning your skin can ensure it stays moist, decreasing the discomfort and redness of potential winter psoriasis outbreaks.
Remember: consistency is key. Don’t just apply lotion when you have a breakout or after you wash your hands – stay on top of moisturizing throughout the year, especially when dealing with cold air.
Another thing you can do is adhere to certain dietary tips during the winter to help minimize flare-ups of psoriasis during winter. Focus on eating…
- Plenty of anti-inflammatory food
- Omega-3 fatty acids (such as those in cold-water fish)
- Warm, nourishing foods (soups, stews, herbal teas)
Most importantly, increase your ingestion of vitamin D through foods such as fatty fish and fortified dairy products. While you might be able to get enough from the sun during the summer, it’s more challenging to do so when it’s cold and dark outside.
Similar to psoriasis, eczema flare-ups are often exacerbated by dry air and cold temperatures. Plus, if you’re hopping in a steaming hot shower or bath to warm up on a winter day, you’re probably drying your skin out even more, which can cause more itching and discomfort.
If your eczema tends to flare up when it’s cold, stick to the following tips for healthy skin:
- Use a humidifier inside
- Dress in protective, sensitive-skin-friendly clothing
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water
- Limit exposure to hot baths and showers
- Avoid scratchy wool fabrics
- Use gentle, moisturizing soaps to wash your hands
- Stay warm when traveling outside
Picking the Right Moisturizer for Eczema
Focus on using oil-based moisturizers that actually protect your skin barrier. Look for lotions that include ingredients such as…
- Hyaluronic acid
- Alpha-hydroxy acids
- Emollients (oils, shea butter, oatmeal)
- Occlusives (lanolin, silicon, beeswax)
Fortunately, you don’t have to hunt too hard to find some eczema-effective hydration products. If in doubt, ask a pharmacist for help developing a winter skincare routine.
(4) Joint Pain
Your skin isn’t the only part of your body that battles against winter weather – your joints might also feel the impact of cold temperatures and frigid winds.
As barometric pressure drops, the tissue in your body can expand. This expansion compresses joints, making some of them more painful to move and flex, especially if you already struggle with joint discomfort.
Furthermore, cold can slow blood flow to your outer extremities, increasing pain in your hands and feet. This is an especially common complaint among people living with arthritis.
If your joints feel achy and sore during cold weather, here are a few tips you can follow:
- Dress warmly in several layers for outdoor exercise
- Get plenty of vitamin D from supplements and food
- Drinking enough water every day
- Stretching or doing yoga daily
- Eat nourishing anti-inflammatory foods
Medications for Joint Pain in Winter
You can also take safe over-the-counter meds such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If the pain is especially severe or persistent, your doctor or healthcare provider may prescribe a medication such as diclofenac, likely in the form of a gel.
For more information, ask your pharmacist for more tips on staying healthy in colder months.
(5) Migraines & Headaches
Just like barometric pressure can trigger joint pain, it can also increase the likelihood of headaches and migraines in winter, especially if you’re already prone to them.
Additionally, weather changes can lead to imbalances in brain chemicals such as serotonin, which also impacts the potential for headaches (alongside poor mental health and the “winter blues”). Although you can try to avoid triggers, such as cold winds and harsh lights, you may still struggle to prevent your head pain.
Overall, the best thing you can do is attempt to lead a healthy, well-balanced life. This includes adhering to headache prevention tips such as…
- Staying hydrated
- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Making nutritious choices for your meals
- Participating in regular exercise & physical activity
- Managing your stress levels
You can also try to use over-the-counter medications for your headache, such as decongestants, expectorants, and painkillers. Some migraine sufferers also swear by nasal rinses, steamy showers, and warm compresses when their discomfort is strong.
Stay Healthy This Winter With Your Local Klingensmith’s
Whether you’re dealing with one of the chronic conditions we just listed or are generally trying to stay healthy in winter months, we’re here to provide support and guidance.
Visit your nearby Klingensmith’s Drug Store location for everything from flu shot appointments to moisturizing lotions for those cracked knuckles. We carry a wide range of products designed to promote winter health and wellness, and our pharmacists are always on standby to answer questions about common winter problems.
Our Pharmacists Are Here to Support You
In the meantime, we hope you and your family are staying healthy and warm in this colder weather!