Health Tips for the Winter

Health Tips for the Winter | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Taking care of your health in every aspect (from eating healthy to making sure that you’re getting regular exercise) is something we need to do year-round. However, there are certain things that people can be more prone to in the wintertime, including the common cold/flu, dry skin, and even something known as seasonal affective disorder. Below is a look at what precautionary measures you can take to prevent some of these conditions from developing.

Mental Health

Mental health is something that many Canadians struggle with. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in every 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness at least once in their lifetime – or will know someone else who may be struggling with their mental health. During the holiday season, something known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can develop, which is thought to be brought on by the reduced level of sunlight in the fall and winter months. This then causes your body’s internal clock to disrupt which leads to a drop in the brain chemical known as serotonin – a neurotransmitter that affects your mood.

Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder is similar to that of treatment for depression and anxiety, and can include things like medication and psychotherapy – often in combination – while there are other self-care methods you can try to help cope with symptoms associated with SAD, such as relaxation techniques, medication, and even music or art therapy. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health during the holidays or at any other time of year, it’s important to reach out for help. You can also find some helpful mental health resources by clicking here.

Problematic Skin

Among the most common skin-related complaints that people have during the winter, is that their skin feels drier, is flakier, and has lost its elasticity and glowy appearance. This is because during the winter months, the humidity level drops outdoors, and when your skin is exposed to cold or dry air, the water in your skin evaporates much more quickly which causes that dry, flaky, and tight appearance. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to improve your skin during the winter, and the options are fairly easy and inexpensive.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your skin is drink water. This will not only help improve the skin’s moisture, but it can also help combat other skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. In addition, drinking water can also help flush toxins from the body which can also improve your skin’s complexion and leave it looking healthier.

To further increase the moisture of your skin, you should also be using a moisturizer. There are many different types of moisturizers on the market, such as lotions, creams, and gels – fragrance free, for sensitive skin, etc. Picking the right moisturizer is all about personal preference. Whatever you choose, just make sure it’s something you use regularly. As for the best time to apply your moisturizer, it’s recommended that you do so right after a shower, as it is easier for your skin to lock in moisture when it’s still slightly damp.

If after trying the aforementioned recommendations and you’re still experiencing problems with your skin, you may need to see a skin specialist known as a dermatologist. You can ask your family doctor for a referral to one.

Common Cold / Flu

Unfortunately winter means an uptick in illnesses like the common cold or influenza. While there is no cure for the common cold, there are things you can do in effort to prevent it – such as practicing good personal hygiene (i.e. handwashing), wiping down surfaces, avoiding putting your hands near your eyes, nose and mouth, and covering your mouth when coughing if you are sick. For symptoms such as nasal congestion, there are also over-the-counter products you can use for temporary relief, such as decongestants, though many of these products can cause what’s known as rebound congestion, so it’s important that you do not use them for longer than what’s recommended on the label.

As for the flu, one of the best ways to prevent it is by getting the flu shot. Anyone can get the flu vaccine, though it’s typically recommended for those aged 6 months or older, as well as those at high-risk of developing the flu/those with weakened immune systems, such as seniors. If you do develop the flu, it’s important that you rest and not over-exert yourself, as doing so will only cause your symptoms to last longer. It’s also possible to develop secondary complications as a result of the flu, i.e. pneumonia, which is a very serious (and can be life-threatening) infection. Because the flu can cause other symptoms such as fever, nausea and vomiting, it’s important that you try to stay as hydrated as possible by drinking fluids. To help reduce fever, you can take an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen.