In winters, there is an alarming rise in pollution levels which, along with the dip in temperature, can lead to many health issues, including ailments of the respiratory system. It becomes important, therefore, to exercise caution.
Dr Sujata Chakravarti, consultant-general medicine, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi — a Fortis Network Hospital — says that though respiratory diseases can happen at any time during the year, some of them are more prevalent during winter due to various reasons. Here are some of them:
– Fog combined with higher levels of pollution (smog) irritating our airways.
– Disease transmission accelerated during winter due to poor ventilation indoors.
– People with pre-existing conditions like asthma or COPD show worsening of symptoms. The frequency of asthma attacks also increases because of the cold weather, making them more susceptible to infections. They tend to spend more time indoors where allergens like dust mites, pet hairs and mold cause the allergies to flare up.
According to Dr Chakravarti, the respiratory diseases that happen often during winters include:
* Common cold: Quite common and contagious. Although usually mild and self-limiting, they can lead to a lot of malaise and discomfort. A common cold can be caused by many different types of viruses.
* Influenza: Commonly known as the flu, it is a viral infection caused by specific influenza viruses, but is more severe than a common cold.
* Bronchitis: When the tubes that carry air to the lungs get inflamed and swollen. You end up with a nagging cough and phlegm.
* Pneumonia: Happens when an infection causes air sacs in the lungs to fill with fluid or pus. That can make it hard for you to breathe and for enough oxygen to reach the bloodstream.
* Acute sinusitis: The spaces inside your nose (sinuses) become inflamed and swollen. This interferes with drainage and causes mucus to build up leading to blocked nose and headaches.
Keep the following points in mind so maintain your respiratory health:
1. Regulate body temperature by layering comfortably with warm clothes.
2. Keep your hands clean and free of germs. Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes with dirty hands.
3. If the air quality is bad around your place, avoid morning jogs as toxic pollutants are at a peak during this time. You can instead do indoor aerobic activities.
4. Incorporate some breathing exercises in order to enhance your lung capacity.
5. Keep your home clean of dust, mold, and allergens. Clean your bedding, carpets, rugs, and sofas regularly.
6. Do not smoke, and avoid crowded places.
7. Have good ventilation at home; you could try using an air purifier or a humidifier.
8. Stay hydrated. Take steam as suggested by your doctor, but do not try random home remedies that may further aggravate the problem.
9. Consume a nutritious diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Citrus fruits, turmeric and ginger can help build immunity.
10. Avoid processed, junk, fried, oily, and canned food that are loaded with preservatives, additives, and artificial flavours. They may cause throat irritation.
11. When advised by your doctor, do take vaccines for flu and pneumonia.
12. Those with pre-existing lung conditions or senior citizens should have follow-ups with their doctor and ensure their prescriptions are updated.