February can be a bleak month, filled with gray, dreary days and chilly, blustery nights. While the chill in the air can’t be blamed for bugs going around the office or school, the cold itself can irritate the body, causing minor ailments.
Each winter season, doctors here at AFC Urgent Care find more and more patients complaining of some common winter issues, in addition to colds and flu. Topping the list of patient complaints are sore throats, dry skin and painful joints. We’ve put together a list of some of the most common issues we see and what steps you can take to stay healthy.
While a severe sore throat is something your doctor needs to look at, a minor sore throat can put a damper on your day, making everyday actions like talking, eating and drinking uncomfortable. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, dry heat can irritate the throat. And with people heading indoors to get out of the cold, other indoor irritants like smoke and even spicy foods come into play. For a minor throat irritation, gargle with warm salty water. It may taste gross, but the results can help you get back to your day!
Cold air has a hand in making asthma symptoms worse — leading to shortness of breath and wheezing. Exercising outdoors in the chill can make things worse. If you suffer from asthma, keep your inhaler close by and stay out of the wind, which can stir up dust and debris along with cold air. The National Institutes for Health suggests wearing a face mask outdoors if you suffer from asthma. The mask warms the air before you inhale, staving off that winter chill.
Hot showers in cold weather may sound like a great idea, but the combination of cold air and hot water can lead to skin losing natural moisture, leaving dry, flaky patches and causing itchiness. Forbes Magazine found rosacea is also a problem in cold weather, as temperature fluctuations and wind tend to cause flare-ups. To keep dry skin at bay, wash in warm — not hot — water and apply lotions and emollients while your skin is still damp. This helps seal in the moisture.
Patients report joint pain and stiffness, particularly during the winter months. According to the NIH, low pressure causes tissues surrounding joints to expand, putting pressure on the joint itself. If that wasn’t enough, cold air sometimes drives us indoors, where we spend hours in the same position or don’t get enough exercise due to the weather. The combination of inactivity and lack of exercise can make joint pain worse. Take a quick walk around the house or jog up your stairs a few times to get your blood flowing and energize your body.
What are your most common complaints during the winter? Share your thoughts with us!