While winter is perfect for bringing us sledding opportunities and the perfect conditions for building a snowman, it is also responsible for many changes in health conditions. It is easy for people to focus on coughs, frostbite or cold and flu season, but there is a whole host of other conditions that the cold weather impacts. Continue reading to discover these eight surprising ways our clinicians see the cold weather impacting health conditions and the human body!
Asthma is a condition that occurs when the airways within the lungs become inflamed, making it hard to breathe. It frequently leads to shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing. Extreme cold weather can also cause airways to tighten, so individuals who suffer from asthma will frequently have an even harder time breathing. Winter is prime time for coughs and colds which also impair the ability to breathe.
If you or a loved one suffers from asthma, be sure to keep the inhaler close. It is important to remember not to leave it in the car as freezing temperatures decrease the effectiveness of the albuterol.
There are many types of arthritis, all of which involve inflammation in the joints, or area where two bones meet. Arthritis makes moving and using the affected part of the body challenging and painful. There is no scientific evidence to back the claim, but for many individuals with arthritis their symptoms worsen during the winter months. Since most individuals are less active during this time of the year, conditions may worsen if the person also contracts the flu or another virus.
Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body is unable to maintain proper blood glucose levels. Many individuals who have diabetes notice higher blood sugar levels during the cold and winter months due to a decrease in activity and holiday diets that are not as healthy as normal. If you or a loved one suffers from diabetes, we recommend carefully monitoring blood sugar levels, being conscious of your level of activity and being mindful of your diet during the rest of this winter season.
4) Congestive Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
The symptoms of COPD are similar to those of asthma, wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. COPD is a progressive disease meaning it continues to get worse over time and may worsen during the winter. The body reacts to cold air the same way it does a histamine, meaning the muscles in the lung contract causing airways to tighten, in turn making breathing much harder than it already is.
Approximately five percent of Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that most commonly occurs during the winter months. The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are similar to those of other types of depression including sadness, extreme fatigue, trouble concentrating and more. SAD is usually attributed to decreased exposure to sunlight and a drop in serotonin levels.
6) Heart Attacks
Did you know that heart attacks are more frequent in winter? Extreme temperature changes increase blood pressure, putting additional strain on the heart. The human heart also has to pump more blood in order to maintain body heat when it is cold. Individuals with high blood pressure, heart disease or heart conditions need to remain cautious of how much time they spend in the extreme cold and remember to bundle up when going outside.
Individuals who are susceptible to migraines may experience more episodes when there are dramatic changes in temperature or barometric pressure. While we can't control the weather, there are ways to offset the onset of a migraine. Carefully monitor when a migraine occurs and what the weather is like at the time. If the weather is a trigger for your migraines, try staying indoors on very cold or windy days. Lastly, take your migraine medicine at the first sign of a migraine to stop it before it has a chance to interrupt your day.
Most people think of spring time and pollen counts when they think of allergies, but it is typical for individuals with indoor allergies to see their symptoms peak during the cold months. Since more time is spent indoors in an attempt to stay warm those who suffer from allergy triggers such as dust mites, pet dander, mold, etc. have a tougher time during the winter. There are many ways to minimize allergic reactions including regularly washing sheets, cleaning, and vacuuming. There are also over the counter and prescription allergy remedies if symptoms persist.
UnityPoint at Home Nursing Care
From chronic care management to wound care and everything in between, our team is dedicated to making sure you and your loved ones have the resources necessary to live a healthy life from the comfort of your own home.
Have any additional questions about winter safety or managing chronic conditions for you and your loved ones this season? Our qualified care team is here for you; learn more about our team and contact us today.