WITH climate change, the number of patients suffering from winter ailments is increasing. The question is how and why to avoid these diseases and stay healthy. They can be fairly easy to prevent if we follow certain rules and maintain proper hygiene and etiquette. In general, most people get cold about 2 to 5 times a year. It can range from mild irritations to illnesses that require treatment to recover, while others could be easily resolved if proper rest and rules are followed. The common cold is caused by viruses that we breathe in or come into contact with through hard surfaces or by hand-to-hand contact. Some viruses are airborne and can easily be passed from one infected person to another.
An allergy is a hypersensitive immune reaction to substances called antigens. This reaction can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, runny nose, swelling of parts of the body, nausea or vomiting, severe itching, rash, and even hives. Some people can even have asthma attacks. It is a misconception that allergies only develop during childhood. Bacterial and viral infections such as the common cold and the flu occur because the immune system is not strong enough to prevent them all. A simple virus can enter through the nose or mouth and enter the lungs, then cause inflammation, purulent discharge, sticky sputum production, a rise in body temperature, a cough, a runny or blocked nose. , etc.
Again, such symptoms can be easily avoided by people with a strong immune response. Children and the elderly, however, are likely to suffer from a lack of a strong immune response. Caution is required for the most vulnerable people. Fighting with the virus can weaken your immunity, resulting in a full-blown viral infection, and with a viral infection there may be an added bacterial infection. This type of infection should be treated with antibiotics that no one should take without a doctor’s prescription.
Now what can we do on our own? As soon as you experience a sore throat, dull aches, sneezing, runny nose, or mild fever, relax for a while and let your body rest. Take paracetamol and drink plenty of fluids. Nutritious foods containing vitamin C can boost immunity. Seek medical attention immediately if you notice any worsening of symptoms. Wash your hands regularly and take hand sanitizer outside. Try to maintain a balanced diet and a healthy sleep cycle.
Make no mistake about the diagnosis of cold-related illnesses in the era of the pandemic. Covid-19 is transmitted from person to person, so maintaining social distancing and avoiding crowded places can ensure safety. Just wearing a mask can help a lot. Even if you are vaccinated, don’t take it for granted and stick to the same steps you have taken since the Covid outbreak. We must not be complacent.
Ask any asthma sufferer and they will tell you that breathing becomes more difficult during the colder months. Air passages narrow with colder air and the cool breeze can cause shortness of breath. Staying indoors for long periods of time can also cause breathing problems as you end up breathing the same air without much ventilation. Cover up enough if you are outside. If you are prescribed inhalers, make sure your inhaler is on hand, especially before exercise, and do not spend too much time with pets. Keep your home well ventilated and dust free. Only use medicines prescribed by your doctor.
The cold also causes joint pain, regardless of age. People with arthritis or osteoarthritis mostly notice that their symptoms get worse. Experts say a large number of people complain of joint pain during the winter, although there is little scientific evidence to explain exactly why this happens. Regular exercise can be of great help. Good hydration and a diet with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C and D are also helpful.
Health experts believe that sinusitis affects people a lot more during the colder months. The release of histamine, a compound released by cells in response to allergic or inflammatory reactions, causes the nasal cavity to narrow, making it difficult to breathe. A bad attack of sinusitis can cause constant sneezing and headaches that can range from mild to severe. The drugs will help reduce mucus production and open up the nasal passage so that you can breathe easily.
You have to stay in an environment that is neither too humid nor too dry. Use nasal sprays to keep the nasal passage moist, but consult your doctor before using the spray. Smoking makes these symptoms worse, so be sure to stay away from smoking and secondhand smoke. Certain hair products or cleaning products can also trigger a reaction. The habit of wearing face masks is a good thing we got from the Covid epidemic. Wearing a mask outdoors can help keep dust particles away and reduce inflammatory reactions.
The changing weather can also affect your mood more than you realize. Because winter has shorter days and longer nights, this decreased exposure to natural light can trigger depression. Other symptoms include more frequent drowsiness, prolonged sleep, lack of energy, and lack of concentration. It is therefore necessary to increase the exposure to natural light. It doesn’t mean you have to walk in the sun for hours; instead, you should make sure you have enough natural light when you are indoors. Always try to go for a walk outside if you can. Keep busy with the activities you love. Don’t let lethargy get the better of you.
A person can develop an allergy at any age depending on their immune system and environmental factors. Blood tests can reveal what exactly you are allergic to so you can avoid these triggers. Common things that can cause an allergy include certain foods, cosmetics, dust, pollen, or animal dander. Make a list of the things that trigger an allergy so that you can be extra careful. Get in the habit of carrying allergy medication with you to prevent an attack, even if you are exposed to harmful allergens.
Strengthen your immune system by eating a healthy, balanced diet and drinking enough water. Include spinach, broccoli, oranges, limes, pomegranates, and potatoes in your diet. Relieve congestion by drinking ginger, green tea, or lime juice mixed with lukewarm water. Gargling with salt water and drinking lemon juice helps moisten the throat and tighten the membranes. If your skin tends to get too dry, keep it well hydrated by using moisturizer every few hours. Symptoms are part of your body’s defense mechanism and part of fighting infections. If your illness does not improve after 7-10 days or if symptoms worsen, you should seek direct medical assistance.
Dr Zubair Khaled Huq is a public health specialist.