Why is it that we’re more likely to get sick during winter? Surprisingly, the cold itself doesn’t negatively affect your health that much. However, the drop in temperature does mean that viruses can survive for longer periods without a host. As people get sick and infect each other during winter, cold viruses have more of a chance to latch on to new victims.
This is compounded by our behaviours during colder seasons. We go outside less, we drive or take public transport more frequently, and cough and splutter into air that circulates through heating systems. This is what makes us more susceptible to cold viruses.
We can’t influence the cold, but we can change our behaviour. But what can you do to stay reasonably healthy during winter?
Even if winter weather doesn’t make you feel inclined towards extensive outdoor activities, walks in the fresh air can have a significant positive impact on your health. Being outside keeps your mucous membranes moist and well-supplied with blood, which makes it difficult for cold viruses to infiltrate your body. Anyone who spends a lot of time in dry office air should try to use their lunch break to take walks and get some air. You can also improve your indoor environment by regularly airing out the room, or keeping a wet cloth on the radiator!
Doctors assert that movement of any kind can stimulate your immune system. In winter therefore, it’s good to be particularly active – either by swimming, cycling, jogging or taking part in any other type of fun activity. Opting for an outdoor sport will be extra good for you as you get fresh air too, with all the benefits listed above!
Beware of crowds
In the office, on the subway, at Christmas parties; viruses are lurking everywhere! Of course, even the biggest hypochondriacs can’t avoid all of these places, but you can make sure to frequently wash your hands or take hand disinfectant with you. Make sure that sick colleagues stay home, so that there’s no risk of infecting everybody else at the office. The best cure for a cold is a few days of bed rest. There is no medicinal cure as such, but some drugs can help to alleviate symptoms.
Try some home remedies
Everyone knows some home remedies for preventing colds and helping you to heal faster. While it’s hard to measure the effectiveness of say, taking a sauna or mainlining chicken soup, it doesn’t mean they don’t have an impact.
A trip to the sauna for example, promotes blood circulation which helps you to fight infection. Chicken soup may have short-lived effects, but you feel better when you drink something warm, and it moisturises your dried out throat and nostrils. It’s not however, going to kick your immune system back into gear.
Some people choose to ‘toughen up’ by taking cold showers, but in reality this probably has more of a psychological effect. If you personally feel that it strengthens your immune system, you should continue to do so – as your mind and your immunity are closely linked.
Diet of course, has a massive impact on physical health. Iron, zinc or for example, vitamins A, C, D and E are important for healthy immune function. If you already have a balanced diet, you probably won’t feel any additional effect through increased consumption of fruit and veg. Try to enjoy alcohol in moderation, as it dehydrates your body. But this is easier said than done in the season of office parties and Christmas celebrations!
It’s highly likely that the reason many people fall ill around Christmas time is due to increased stress levels towards end of the year. With Christmas planning, completing final projects and gift shopping all in quick succession, hardly anyone has time to breathe between work and personal errands. The problem is this: permanent stress causes the body to constantly release the hormone cortisol which suppresses the immune system. So it’s crucial that you take a little time out to take care of your mental health too.
Ultimately, it’s not single actions that will have an impact on your health, but your lifestyle as a whole. It’s probably impossible to completely avoid a bit of stress before Christmas, but if you catch a cold, it’s just a sign that your body needs a little TLC. Make sure to treat it well.