Winter is often a welcome change to the long, hot summers experienced in many Australian locations, however significant drops in temperature can lead to a variety of health conditions. Outbreaks of colds and flu generally increase in the population, asthma symptoms can be exacerbated and cooler conditions can lead to dehydration, weight gain and unhealthy eating.
But wintertime in our beautiful country doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Practising healthy habits can help you and your family avoid the winter blues and the health problems that can go along with it. Here are some expert medical tips on how to stay healthy this winter.
#1 – Practise healthy habits
One of the more important winter health precautions is to practise healthy habits, which can help to minimise your risk of catching colds and of course the dreaded flu. More than 200 viruses can cause the common cold alone, and the flu can become a more serious health condition if symptoms are not managed effectively.
Healthy habits to practice include washing your hands often, covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, and trying to avoid contact with those that have flu-like symptoms. Young children, the elderly and those at high risk are particularly susceptible to catching the flu, so your GP will generally recommend you have a flu vaccine every 12 months if you fall into one of these categories.
This year, Queensland Health is offering free immunisation to around 300,000 children under five, and to more than three million Australians over 65 to try to counteract the horror flu season the state experienced last year.
If you do catch the flu it’s important that you stay home from school or work and limit your contact with other people so that you don’t infect them as well. In terms of treatment options, antibiotics will not ‘cure’ a cold or flu because antibiotics target bacteria, not viruses. Your best line of defence is to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and take paracetamol to reduce your headache, fever and any muscle aches you may experience.
#2 – Eat well
Colder weather can not only affect heating bills and wardrobe choices, our bodies can also experience changes in our metabolism, energy levels and even food preferences. Eating foods high in nutritional value is important in winter because it helps to supply the body with the ‘good’ fats, proteins, fibre, antioxidants, vitamins (like B, C, D and E) and carbohydrates it needs to kick-start your immunity and nourish you adequately.
In order to practise good healthcare in winter, try ‘winterizing’ your diet with some of these cold-weather favourites:
- Root vegetables – boiling turnips will up your vitamin C and A levels and slow-roasting a handful of carrots will give you an important boost of beta-carotene which is great for immune systems
- Broccoli and cauliflower – these cruciferous vegetables are both high in Vitamin C which helps to enhance our immunity
- Oats – are not only low GI (meaning they will help maintain your glucose levels), they are also high in fibre and zinc which can assist with proper immunity functioning
- Soup – load up a nutritious broth with loads of vegetables and you’ll enhance your daily vitamin and mineral intake even further
#3 – Stay hydrated
As the weather becomes cooler it’s easy to neglect hydration, however, another one of our health tips for winter is to keep up your daily water intake. Keeping hydrated regulates your body temperature, which allows your blood to remove toxins and carry oxygen and important nutrients around your body.
Drinking water will also ensure your bodily functions are running efficiently, which can help to improve your energy levels and keep your immune system functioning properly. Dehydration can often also dry out the mucous membranes in our lungs and sinuses, which can seriously reduce their ability to fight infections.
Being well hydrated also helps our digestive systems to function properly which is vital during the cooler months when we tend to over-consume often less nutritional foods. And it can help to keep our skin cells hydrated, which can reduce the risk of dryness, chapping and skin conditions like eczema.
#4 – Keep active
If you’re looking at how to stay healthy this winter, one of the easiest quick-fix solutions is to keep active. Although it’s common to feel less motivated during the colder months, it’s important to keep up a regular exercise regime in order to stay healthy. Exercise will not only keep you warm, it will strengthen your immune system which will help cells circulate through your body and seek out and destroy infections
Keeping active also gives our lungs a chance to detox, can help us avoid winter weight gain and the vitamin D obtained from sunshine can help keep our bones strong, and even assist with lowering overly high blood pressure. A daily walk or workout can also help ease depression by helping our bodies release de-stressing brain chemicals.
#5 – Manage asthma
Asthma affects about one in ten Australians and changes in climate can often trigger asthma attacks leading to symptoms including coughing, wheezing, a tight chest and shortness of breath. Medicated inhalers and following the asthma action plan provided by your GP will not only help reduce symptoms, it can lessen your risk of them becoming severe and potentially even life-threatening.
In terms of winter health precautions, it’s also worth keeping an eye out for any mould growth in your home. Mould is a fungus that thrives in dark and damp places and it flourishes in cold weather. Health conditions caused by mould include asthma, headaches, a cough, a runny nose and eye irritations, and the most practical way to control mould is by ensuring your home has adequate heating, good ventilation and surfaces are kept clean and dry.
#6 – Stay warm!
It sounds simple, but one of the most important ways you can manage your healthcare in winter is to stay warm. Cold weather is particularly dangerous for older people and those with chronic health conditions including heart or respiratory problems. To keep healthy during the winter season you should ensure you and your family eat and exercise regularly to keep energy levels up, keep doors closed and curtains drawn to block draughts, wear several light layers of warm clothing and have regular hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day if you can.
Need some tips on how to stay healthy this winter? Contact us today on (07) 3711 2880 to book your professional consultation.