Winter brings with it a welcome relief from the heat and dust. But it also brings with it its own share of problems like cold, flu, cough, aggravation of chronic illnesses like asthma, arthritis and heart diseases and skin problems like dry and chapped skin. The very young and very old are the worst sufferers in this season. Among children other infectious diseases like measles and chickenpox are also common as they remain indoors most of the time. Places with inadequate ventilation help in easy spread of above diseases.
But a little care on our part can prevent many of these problems.
Cold and Flu are the common problems in winter. Although symptoms of cold and flu can be similar, the two are different. Cold is usually distinguished by a stuffy or running nose and sneezing. Other symptoms include coughing, a scratchy throat, and watery eyes. Flu comes on more suddenly, is more serious, and lasts longer than cold. Flu symptoms include fever, headache, chills, dry cough, body ache, fatigue, and general misery. Like cold, flu too can cause a stuffy or running nose, sneezing, and watery eyes. Young children may also experience nausea and vomiting along with flu.
For an enjoyable winter try to prevent these illnesses by taking certain precautions given below
Both cold and flu can be transmitted through coughing, sneezing, and contaminated surfaces, including the hands. Therefore try to limit exposure to infected people, as these illnesses spread through infection. Patients should wash their hands often with warm, soapy water and keep their towels, handkerchiefs, etc separate.
Small children are especially prone to above diseases with more risk of complications. The very young have to be protected from the cold by covering them adequately in warm clothes, giving them plenty of warm fluids and a healthy balanced diet to eat. It is important to keep newly borns away from crowd. This is especially true for premature babies who may have underlying abnormalities such as lung or heart disease.
For prevention it is important to practice healthy habits. Therefore eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep and exercise regularly as it can help the immune system to fight off the germs. Try to keep your stress in check. The good news is that measles, flu and chicken pox can be prevented by vaccinating children against them. Also, people who use tobacco or who are exposed to smoke are more prone to respiratory illnesses and more severe complications than nonsmokers Therefore tobacco should be avoided.
Besides the cold and flu, the elderly may have an aggravation of the symptoms of arthritis and asthma. The risk of heart attacks in this season also increases in them. They also can have increased symptoms of depression. Simple precautions like keeping themselves warm and well insulated from the cold, drinking plenty of water and warm fluids(not alchohol), eating light and wholesome meals with plenty of salads, green vegetables and fruits and not stepping out into the cold immediately after a heavy meal can prevent some of these problems. They should keep themselves involved in social activity and exercise regularly to prevent depression from creeping in. Asthma patients should consult their doctor about any change in medication as their problems may get aggravated in this season.
Other problems like dryness and chapping of skin, which are common in winter, can be prevented by using mild soaps and by keeping the skin adequately moisturised.
Hence, simple precautions can help you to weather the winter woes and enjoy a cool and healthy winter.
(The writer is specialist in maternal and child health.)