Dr. Behrouz Hashim
In winters, the human mind and body is exposed to new activity that influences one’s well being. Here are some common winter ailments you should know about to prevent and minimize their effects.
SORE THROAT: We are more likely to stay indoors during winters, and to take out our old dusty blankets and quilts. We are also exposed to winter viruses. These attack the throat, tonsils, the larynx and the pharynx, causing tonsillitis, laryngitis, pharyngits and bronchitis.
PREVENTION: (a) Avoid contact with people who have infection (b) Gargle with salt water (c) Take flu shots (d) Air out and ventilate the room (e) Dress warmly when going outdoors (f) Room heaters and their ventilation ducts and chimneys should be serviced and maintained.
DRY SKIN: With onset of winter, there is usually a drop in humidity. This causes dryness, itching, cracks in the soles, heels and the skin, which can get infected.
PREVENTION: Use moisturizing lotions and creams. Apply oil, Vaseline or petroleum jelly, depending on what suits your skin and how cold and dry the environment is. Vitamin A, C and E protect the skin from dryness, so increase your intake of food and vegetables rich in these vitamins. You may require vitamin supplements too.
DEPRESSION OR “WINTER BLUES”: We all feel “low” or “down” from time to time. In winter, because it tends to be cold and grey, people with strong tendency for depression tend to feel more so.
The signs and symptoms of depression include loss of interest and enjoyment in every aspect of life, feeling withdrawn from family, friends, work and hobbies, poor personal hygienic and appearance, disturbed sleep, headaches, backache, tightness in the chest, vision problems, giddiness, tiredness and weight loss.
PREVENTION: Learn about the disease, talk it over, and seek professional help. Counseling, therapy and medication are important. Stay in touch with friends, family and the community.
BURN: Every winter the number of burns victims increases in the hospitals and emergency rooms.
Causes include unsafe room heating methods, poor storage of inflammable liquids, wooden logs, electrical circuit overload due to heaters, spilling of boiling water, particularly while taking a bath, and cooking indoors in make-shift premises. Since children are kept indoors, they tend to play around in the kitchen and their fascination for matches and fire can draw them to disastrous accidents.
PREVENTION: Take safety precautions to avoid contact with fire, boiling water and hold oil. Check the electrical and gas systems for safety.
EAR ACHE: Otlitis media tends to be more common in winters. The main reasons are that the nose is running, and gets blocked, and the sinuses get inflamed, all leading to a blocked Eustachian tube. As a result, ear infections due to viruses and bacteria cause intense pain.
PREVENTION: Decongestants, gargling a steam inhalation keep the Eustachian tube open so inner ear infections are less frequent.
DANDRUFF: The flaking of the scalp is common in winter and causes itching, discomfort and hair loss.
PREVENTION: Keep the room humid. Anti-dandruff shampoo and deep oily scalp massage is very helpful. Olive oil and mustard oil (sarsoon) provide relief. Palm oil (khopra) dries the scalp, so avoid it in winter.
ARTHRITIS: With the arrival of winter, many people with chronic arthritis complain about their joints getting stiff and hurting more. The reason is that due to a lack of outdoor activity there is less circulation to the joints, as the body re-directs the flow of blood to the main organs like the liver, kidney and intestine, to keep them warm. Osteoarthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis get worse in winter. And since there is pain, the joints are less frequently moved, causing more pain and stiffness.
PREVENTION: (a) Keep the joints moving before winter sets in (b) Use a hot water bottle or bag to keep the joints warm (c) Massage gently with warm oil or paraffin as recommended by your doctor and/or physiotherapist.