Wellness tip: Cold Weather Health
Some people long for the winter months to get out into the snow or cozy up inside with a blanket. But the long cold months of winter also bring unique health risks. Harsh winter winds are notoriously hard on our skin - the body's largest organ. Indoor heat can lead to dry and irritated sinuses. Exposure to extreme cold can pose serious threats to those with diabetes, respiratory conditions, or heart disease. Many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the short gray days of winter. And, of course, there’s the surge of colds and other viruses each winter.
Tips for Better Winter Health
Experts recommend a few steps to take to increase your health over the winter.
Cold dry air leads to chapped lips and skin, which can turn itchy and painful. If you don’t already apply lotion and a lip balm daily, winter is a great time to start.
Get a Humidifier
No matter what source of heat you use, it inevitably dries out the air in your home while heating it. Combine that with the dry outside air and you get dry mucus membranes in your sinuses. This can lead to pain and irritation. Adding a humidifier to your home space can help keep your sinuses more comfortable.
Wash your hands and limit exposure to germs
With the increase in nasty colds, flus, and viruses that winter brings, doctors recommend that you wash your hands regularly over the winter. Additionally, consider taking measures to limit exposure and spread of these potentially deadly viruses by masking indoors, checking in with loved ones about any viruses going around before spending time together, and limiting exposure when cases are high in your community.
Try out light therapy to boost your mood
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that usually occurs in the fall and winter. SAD affects an estimated 5% of people in the United States or approximately 10 million Americans. Light therapy is a common treatment for SAD. Though it remains unclear how light therapy works, many believe exposure to bright light boosts serotonin production. But don’t just turn on all the lights in your house. Light therapy requires special lights for full benefits.
Exercise, stay hydrated, eat healthy, and get some sleep (if you can!)
Lack of sleep, dehydration, and the sugar and alcohol rich holiday feasts all weaken your immune system. Doctors recommend trying to continue to exercise through the winter to keep your body healthy and to boost your mood. Additionally, staying well hydrated and eating lots of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains can keep your immune system working strong through the cold winter months. And lastly: try to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night if possible, as a lack of sleep anytime of year can have negative health impacts.
Spring will come!
Winter can feel like a season to survive, but Scandinavians have long practiced “hygge”: a culture of coziness. Their tricks for surviving the long dark winters of the far north include: increasing the coziness factor in your home through cuddling up with blankets, lighting candles, and playing games with a small group of friends or family. And no matter how cold the winter gets, in most parts of the world, no matter what: spring will arrive!