Written By: Emma Squillace
We all know the advice to stay out of the cold weather because it could make us sick. And while that is more of an old wives’ tale than solid health advice, there are some reasons that the colder weather can get in the way of our health. This is especially true for our patients who suffer from ear, nose, and throat problems. Here are some ways the colder months can be hard on our bodies:
When it’s chilly outside, coming into a warm house or office can feel great. However, many of our homes and offices are heated with forced air. Forced air can be hard on sinuses. It dries out your eyes, nose, and throat, which can lead to symptoms like watery or itchy eyes, dry cough, and nose bleeds. On the other end of the spectrum, forced air can also cause increased mucous production which can make breathing more difficult.
Cold or flu viruses
Feeling cold is not going to make you catch a cold, but there are reasons you’re more likely to catch a cold or flu during the winter. Scientists have found that colder air and lower humidity help viruses live longer and spread. In hot temperatures, flu viruses die quickly, but in cold temperatures these viruses can linger – for hours or even a day – on surfaces like train seats, grocery store carts, and desks.
More inside time
When it’s less nice outside, we’re likely to spend more time indoors. This time inside makes us more prone to catching a virus from others. It also means we’re spending less time airing out our homes or offices. This can result in allergens like mold and dust becoming more concentrated and aggravating allergy symptoms.
Allergies may seem like a spring problem, but some of our patients actually have worse allergies in the winter than any other season. Winter is especially tricky because it can be hard to tell if you have allergies or a cold. In general, if cold symptoms last more than 2 weeks without dissipating, it’s a good idea to get screened for allergies. And remember that allergies can start at any age, so even if you have not had allergies before, it’s possible to start suffering from them as an adult. Nasal allergies can interfere with your quality of life, and have even been linked with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – a condition where someone stops breathing many times per night, resulting in drowsiness during the day. Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition that has been linked with higher incidence of car accidents, heart disease, and complications during pregnancy.
Tips to counteract cold weather
Some colder weather is inevitable, but there are steps you can take to minimize symptoms:
- Stay well hydrated, even though you may not feel as thirsty as when the weather is warmer
- Use a humidifier to add extra moisture into the air
- Avoid scented candles and scented room sprays
- See a doctor if your symptoms last – while there is no cure for a cold, sometimes these symptoms are indications of other ear, nose, and throat conditions that can be treated.
It’s pretty typical to have a week or two of sneezing and sore throats during the colder months, but other symptoms may warrant a trip to a doctor. At West Medical we treat lots of patients with conditions like recurring sinus infections, allergies, deviated septum, and hearing issues. If you’re fighting frustrating symptoms, get in touch with us. We can first make sure to get you an accurate diagnosis of your symptoms, and can then recommend a treatment that is safe and effective. If you’d like to come in and talk to our ear, nose, and throat experts, give us a call today at (855) 690-0565.