Some health problems, such as sore throat, flu, and cold sores, can often happen in cold weather. Here is some advice about helping you to deal with illness during the winter months.
You can help prevent colds by regularly washing your hands. This destroys bugs and germs that you may have picked up from touching surfaces used by other people, such as door handles and light switches.
It is also important to keep the house and any household items such as glasses, cups, and towels clean, especially if someone you live with is ill.
If you get a cold, use disposable tissues instead of cloth handkerchiefs to avoid constantly re-infecting your own hands.
Flu is a condition that can kill vulnerable people. People aged 65 and over and those with long-term health conditions, including diabetes and kidney disease, are particularly at risk.
The most effective way to prevent getting flu is to have a flub jab.
This vaccine can protect against flu and lasts for one year.
To find out if you are at risk of getting flu, ask your GP. If you think you are in a high-risk group, see your doctor to get a flu vaccination.
Having a sore throat is common in winter and is almost always caused by viral infections.
One easy remedy for a sore throat is to gargle with warm salty water. This will not heal the infection, but it has anti-inflammatory properties and can have a soothing effect. Dissolve one teaspoon of salt in a glass of part-cooled boiled water.
Cold air is a major trigger of asthma symptoms, such as wheezing and shortness of breath.
People with asthma should be especially careful in winter.
You need to stay indoors on cold, windy days. If you do go out, wear a scarf over your nose and mouth. Be vigilant about taking regular medications, and keep rescue inhalers close by, and in a warm place.
Also known as the winter vomiting bug, this is an extremely infectious stomach bug. It can strike all year round, but is more common in winter and in places such as hotels and schools. The illness is unpleasant, but it’s usually over within a couple of days.
When people are ill with vomiting and diarrhoea, they should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. By drinking oral rehydration fluids, which are available from pharmacies, you can reduce the risk of dehydration.
Many people may feel a bit depressed during the winter months, and this can make them perceive pain more acutely. Everything feels worse, including medical conditions. But by taking daily exercise you can help boost both your physical and mental health.
Cold sores are a sign that you are run down or stressed. While there is no cure for cold sores, you can reduce the chances of getting one by taking care of yourself through winter.
Each day, do activities that make you feel less stressed, such as having a hot bath, going for a walk in the park, or watching a favourite film or TV programme.
Dry skin is often worse during the winter, when environmental humidity is low. Moisturising is vital during winter. The best time to apply moisturiser is after a bath or shower while your skin is still moist, and again at bedtime. Have warm, rather than hot, showers.
Water that is too hot makes skin feel more dry and itchy.
Raynaud’s phenomenon is a common condition that makes your fingers and toes change colour and become painful in cold weather. Fingers can go white, then blue, then red, and throb and tingle. It is a sign of poor circulation in the small blood vessels of the hands and feet. In severe cases, medication can be helpful, so you should visit your GP.
Avoid drinking caffeine or smoking, as they can make symptoms worse. And wear warm gloves, socks and shoes when going out in cold weather.