There are plenty of reasons to dislike winter – and a host of cold-weather health problems only adds to the list. When temperatures drop, certain ailments and illnesses become much more common. And some illnesses, like the common cold and flu, thrive especially well during the coldest months of the year.
Winter brings a number of unique risks and health woes. As the seasons change, weather- and temperature-related health issues arrive with rain, snow, and ice. And some health conditions that can strike during any season actually become heightened during winter, all thanks to the colder temperatures.
If you’re hoping to stay as healthy as possible this winter, you need to know what common health problems are likely to occur. And it’s also important to know how you can prevent or combat them. Here are some of the biggest winter health problems you need to be aware of.
The Common Cold
The common cold almost seems inevitable as soon as winter arrives. After all, there’s a reason winter is known as “cold season.” The common cold can run rampant starting in the fall, and it’s easily – and quickly – spread during winter.
More than 200 different viruses can cause the common cold. Rhinoviruses, which are the most common kind, thrive in cold temperatures. And that makes rhinoviruses most likely to spread when you begin spending more time indoors in confined spaces.
How to Combat the Common Cold
In order to avoid the common cold, you’ll need to practice preventative habits. Make sure to wash your hands frequently each day, especially after being in contact with different people and different environments. Keep your hands out of your mouth and away from your eyes, which is how germs are easily introduced into the body.
Flu season happens every year, and like the common cold, it can seem unavoidable. It starts in October, but the flu really does its worst at the height of winter. During the coldest months of the year, the influenza virus can leave you with body aches, chills, sinus problems, a sore throat, and potentially even worse problems like vomiting.
And the flu can quickly become dangerous. The CDC reports that as many as 79,000 people die from the flu each year. Young children and older adults, as well as anyone with a compromised immune system or other health problems, are at a higher risk of contracting the flu.
How to Combat the Flu
There’s only one way to prevent the flu from striking you or your loved ones: the flu vaccine. According to the CDC, getting the flu vaccine can reduce your odds of contracting the flu by 40 to 60 percent. You should also practice healthy habits, like washing your hands, to lower your risk.
Pneumonia might not seem like a condition you need to worry about. But the truth is pneumonia becomes incredibly common during winter. During the colder months, pneumonia thrives – and it spreads quickly and easily because many people stay indoors, spending more time in close proximity.
Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs that’s caused by airborne viruses or bacteria. Many people who contract pneumonia during the winter end up dying, with as many as 50,000 people dying from the condition each year. The illness is difficult to detect, since it’s symptoms look like nothing more than a cold or the flu.
How to Combat Pneumonia
During the winter, pneumonia often develops when you’re already sick from the common cold or flu. Pneumonia can easily affect anyone with a weakened immune system, taking a simple illness from “no big deal” to deadly in little time. Make sure you see your doctor if your cold or flu symptoms aren’t improving, and take the time to rest when you do come down with other illnesses.
Dry, Itchy Skin
Winter weather might seem nice, especially if you don’t mind colder temperatures. But all of the crisp snow and chilly evenings can wreak havoc on your skin. Dryness and itching are very common during the winter, and they can leave you feeling uncomfortable every day.
The colder air we experience in the winter is dry – and it sucks the moisture right of your skin. This means you can develop cracked hands, chapped lips, and redness on any parts of your body that are exposed to the winter weather.
How to Combat Dry, Itchy Skin
To stop your skin from getting dry or itching relentlessly, you’ll need to restore moisture and deeply hydrate. Basically, you want to try to replenish the moisture your skin loses thanks to the weather. You can do this by swapping your daily lotion for a thick cream, using petroleum jelly on especially dry areas, and covering up all exposed skin when you head outside. Lowering the temperature of your showers from hot to lukewarm can also help prevent dryness
Arthritis is a year-round health condition, and it can be painful and frustrating any time of the year. But when winter arrives and the weather gets colder, arthritis can become even more painful and crippling.
Colder temperatures can cause deeper and more frequent arthritis pain. When the weather is cold or wet, when the barometric pressure changes, and when big weather shifts like snow storms or rain happen, you’ll feel it if you have arthritis. And that can make winter far more challenging.
How to Combat Arthritis Pain
To help alleviate winter arthritis pain, you’ll want to keep your body warm – especially in any areas that are prone to arthritis, like your joints. Dress warmly when you head outside, layering your clothing, and make sure to cover up with socks, mittens or gloves, and a hat. You should also try to stay active, even if you’re feeling aches and pains. Doing so can help keep your joints moving and prevent arthritis stiffness.
Take Extra Care of Yourself to Stay Healthy This Winter
During winter, it’s important to take extra care to avoid common health problems. There’s a reason so many people come down with ailments and illnesses during the coldest months of the year – plenty of conditions, like viruses, can thrive in cooler weather. And that means you have an increased chance of catching something throughout the season.
Increase your body’s defenses against some of winter’s biggest health woes with the advice found here. You can care for your overall wellness and health with just a few preventative measures.