Winter ailments and how you can overcome them

We’re well and truly into winter now, and on top of the usual ailments associated with the colder months, we’re also in the midst of a global pandemic.  It’s a tough time for a lot of people, so we thought we’d try and cut through the clutter and focus on some of the common conditions we see over winter, and what you can do to keep healthy until Spring comes along.

Cold and flu

Cold and Flu

One of the most common things we see during winter is a rise in the prevalence of people suffering from colds and the flu.  You can suffer from a cold all year round of course, but in winter the flu is far more prevalent (hence the “flu” season). 

There are various reasons for this.  It could be because we adjust our lifestyles and spend more time inside sharing the same air, and therefore the virus can pass easily amongst us. Studies have also shown that the influenza likes the colder, drier weather, and transmits better at lower temperatures than higher, or more humid ones.  (You can read more about this in this blog post from Harvard University).

One of the best defences against the flu is a flu shot, and depending on where you live or your circumstances, it may be free.  Other easy ways to try and keep the flu at bay are to keep your vitamins up, eat well and practise good hygiene, such as regular hand-washing – something we are all very good it these days!

If you have any concerns, or would like to arrange your flu shot simply make an appointment and we’ll be able to help you.

Asthma

Asthma

Many find that their asthma symptoms worsen over winter.  This could be because there are more triggers in the colder months – cold weather, more mould and dampness and a prevalence of colds and chest infections.

There are preventative measures you can take to pre-empt your winter response to asthma.  If you have a preventer, make sure you take it as prescribed.  In addition, keep your reliever inhaler with you at all times so it is there for use whenever you need it. 

If you or your child is asthmatic you’ll probably already have an asthma action plan in place.  Make sure your asthma action plan is up to date and has been reviewed recently by your GP, and that copies of it are in the right places, such as at your child’s school or daycare centre.  We can help you if you would like to review or update your asthma action plan.  Simply book in to see one of our friendly GPs.

Seasonal affective disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) relates to mood changes due to the winter months, and has been attributed to various factors but in particular a lack of daylight and sunshine. This change in environment may affect our circadian rhythm, and in turn our sleep patterns. 

A lack of time outdoors, or limited exposure to sunshine may also mean that you are not getting enough Vitamin D, which is needed to boost your immune system  Vitamin D has also has been shown to regulate moods and ward off depression. 

Getting out into the fresh air and sunshine, or using light box therapy are two common suggestions for alleviating the symptoms of SAD, however it is important that you speak to a GP about any signs or symptoms of depression in case there is a more serious underlying issue we can help you with.  

Whether you’d like to discuss more about SAD, check your Vitamin D, or speak to a counsellor, we’re here to help – simply book an appointment online.

Winter weight gain

Weight gain

We’ve all done it – slipped into a state of “hibernation” when the weather gets cold, and decided we’re not coming out again until the sun does!  Comfort eating often accompanies our desire to stay tucked up indoors, compounding the weight gain and causing a few kilos creeping on during the cold months.  

On top of that, often we decide it is too cold to go out and exercise, so drop the level of exercise down a notch during winter. 

As tempting as hibernation is, it is important to keep up some kind of exercise routine during winter.  It can be inside if that helps, but should be regular and consistent.  Not only will it help keep the weight in check, but it will help with your mood too.

We have a dietitian who can help you get through the winter months with useful advice and meal planning tips.  We also have a naturopath, who may be able to assist with advice around nutrition, exercise and understanding the affect our environment has on our health and moods.  Book in for an appointment – we call you so you don’t even have to come out of hibernation!

Poor air quality

Changes in air quality

People tend to spend more time indoors over winter, which may mean they aren’t exposed to as much fresh air as usual.  On top of that the damp, cold air could lead to mould growth, which may trigger some respiratory conditions. 

If you use central heating make sure you’ve had the air filters cleaned and serviced.  Regularly sweep and vacuum, and open windows as often as you can to drive out the stale air and let the fresh air in. 

If you have a fireplace, get the chimney swept and checked to make sure the fire is drawing smoke out properly.  Take care also if using any gas heating appliances, and get them checked as required for safety.

 

Winter can be a bit of a minefield for those with existing conditions, and in 2020, with the extra challenge of a global pandemic thrown in, Spring really can’t come soon enough.  We’re here for you to help you manage existing conditions, or to treat any illnesses that pop up during the cold months.  We also have a dietitian and naturopath on board who can guide you through good choices around food and exercise, and your environment.  Explore our services, and book an appointment.

This website does not provide medical advice.  It is intended for informational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment.  If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately dial Triple 0 (000).