The impact of cold weather on our healthDr. Veita Bland / October 10, 2019
The thermometer is indeed taking a turn toward cooler numbers. We have so enjoyed the sun and the warmth of the spring and summer. Now it is time to turn our attention toward getting ready for the cooler months as old man winter will be arriving soon.
We may not grow a thicker coat or put on weight to prepare for hibernation as some of our fellow animals do but there are a few changes that take place as we prepare ourselves for the fall and winter months.
The cold affects our bodies in various ways. We see more heart attacks during the colder months. Cold weather unfortunately puts more strain on the heart. Recognize this and take added precautions to make sure you are taking your meds and staying warm during the frigid months. Make sure that you wrap up well when going out and keep the house at a comfortable temperature.
Many people say that they have more problems with their arthritis during the cold months. There is no scientific evidence that cold weather injures the joints, but the perception of pain may be heightened in cold temperatures. Make sure to keep those joints warm with added clothing. Support them well. Take your medications if you are on them. Use topical products to help soothe aching joints. Some of the routine meds for arthritis can increase stomach bleeds and affect the cardiovascular system. Consult your healthcare provider before taking over the counter medications, specifically oral meds. Daily exercise such as swimming can also help ease joint pain due to illnesses such as arthritis.
Colds can indeed steal your energy and fun. They are more common during the winter months. Hand washing is a must. Remember, so many cold viruses are primarily spread respiratorily and many survive on objects such as doorknobs, light switches and handles (fomites) that you touch while infected. Cough into your sleeve and use disposable tissues to cut the spread of germs. Some recommend that if members of the family are ill, use disposable products such as paper plates and glasses so they can be disposed of easily with their viruses and germs.
The flu is nothing to play with and results in many deaths and illnesses each year. The best way to fight it is to get inoculated with a flu shot. Seriously consider doing that and if you are over age 65, get the flu vaccine for sure.
Dermatologically, dry flaky skin is a very common problem seen during the fall and winter months. Moisturizing is a must, which helps seal in the moisture on top of the skin. The ideal time to moisturize is right after getting out of the shower or bath and before bedtime. Remember not to shower in water that is too hot. The hot water will strip away some of your natural lubricants and make the skin feel even more itchy and dry.
If you have asthma, take added care during the winter months. Make sure you have consulted your healthcare provider about your medications. Make every effort to insure you are taking them. If it is cold outside, place a scarf around your mouth and nose to help shield against that cold air.
Lastly, on a mental health note, many people become depressed during the winter months. Some suffer from a lack of sunshine. If you know this happens to you, there are ways to help. Invest in lamps and special bulbs that mimic sunlight and sit near them for several hours each day. If this is a problem, speak to your healthcare provider and a plan can be devised to help.
Take care of yourself during the winter months. Respect the cold for what it is, a temporary fling until spring.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at email@example.com.