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Polluted air and climate change are ghastly realities staring us back in the eye. Add a hefty dose of the winter season to it and you will have yourself a set of dreary days when even the simplest things like breathing can become difficult. If you suffer from chronic respiratory problems like asthma, things can get even worse for you. It becomes our priority to take extra good care of our lungs in a situation like this. While great in number, the things you can do to ensure good respiratory health for you and your family are quite easy. You need to be thorough and take all the necessary precautions to avoid any major or minor respiratory problems this winter season. Let’s cover all that you should know about respiratory problems in winters and how you can steer clear of them.
Triggers are the sole major reason for most respiratory problems. Two people could be suffering from asthma, but one would be more sensitive to cold weather while the other would develop symptoms on hot and humid days. The first thing you can do to prevent any respiratory problems is to recognise all the potential threats the winter season comes with and see what triggers your lungs the most. Some of the most common respiratory triggers you can look for this season are:
Several reasons apply to the increased spread of diseases and infections in the winter season. The most important one is the presence of cold air. Cold air reduces the production of mucus in our nasal cavity. Mucus traps the disease-causing microbes and passes them out of the body through the stomach. Lesser mucus in the nasal cavity makes us more prone to inhaling disease-causing microbes and gives them a direct passage into our respiratory system. In addition to that, people prefer staying indoors in winters. Homes are not as ventilated in winters as they are in the summer season. Improper ventilation reduces air quality in the house and can hence lead to more infections. That is why additional levels of care and precautions must be taken in the winter season to prevent illnesses and diseases.
In light of all the potential threats you may be facing come this winter season, we have prepared a rather inclusive list of all the things you can do to make sure you stay safe and healthy. Given below are the things you should take care of this winter season:
First and foremost, try and quit smoking. While it is easier said than done, smoking increases your chances of developing respiratory problems several folds. Smoking itself is harmful enough. Add the damages done by smog, dust, air pollution and cold winter air to it, and you will have an extremely hazardous recipe. It may feel rather difficult at first, but try and quit smoking slowly and for good, regardless of the season. Even if smoking poses more danger to your health in combination with the winter season, it is harmful enough on its own without any seasonal support. If you smoke generally, chances are that your lung cavity is already weak enough. Hence, you will need to take extra care of yourself no matter the season or situation. As a final lesson, try to quit smoking forever.
If the air quality in your region is especially bad, consider getting an air purifier for your home and workspace. Areas with bad air quality can even spread this havoc to the insides of your home. This means avoiding going out won’t be enough to protect your respiratory health. Measure the area of the rooms in your home and get an air purifier good enough to cover the whole house ideally. Also, keep ventilating the house from time to time. This will ensure good air quality without pollutants and germs roaming in your home.
You cannot completely avoid going outside of your home even if the winters are exceptionally harsh this time. However, you can do a few things to make sure that you do not get affected by the polluted, harmful, cold winter air when you are out. Wear a mask when you step outside. This will not only keep you safe from the flu virus and other microbes but also ensure you don’t breathe in a lot of hazardous pollutants. Try and avoid outside workouts during winters. Your respiratory system is the most vulnerable to catching diseases when you are exercising since you take a lot of deep breaths.
Exercise the same precautions by using masks and other protective gear indoors if you work in places with potential air hazards. If you work in a factory or a workshop where the production process produces fumes or some kind of harmful gas, make sure you wear the prescribed protective gear properly at all times. While you are at it, get some radon test kits and run a test on your home. Make necessary arrangements to ensure that you do not fall ill due to an alien element in your house itself.
Make sure that you have taken your flu shots and other necessary vaccines as per the environmental conditions in your area. Vaccination is one of the most important steps when prevention is concerned. Talk to your healthcare provider and your primary care physician to find out what necessary vaccines you should take to prevent winter infections. Take the prescribed doses as directed by the doctor.
While outdoor activities should be limited in the winter season, getting exercise indoors will ensure that your immune system stays strong enough to tackle infections. Exercising 2-3 times every week for an hour or two should be enough to keep your body in an optimal state. You can try your hand at different forms of physical exercise like weightlifting, cross-fit, yoga, etc. If you want to try something different, playing a physical sport or taking up martial arts can be a good choice. Try to add some breathing exercises to your workout regimen to keep your lungs in good health.
Check the air quality index of your region or the regions you travel to most regularly. If you can, avoid going out on days that have poor air quality. If you have to step out for work or other important reasons on a bad air quality day, make sure you wear your mask properly and avoid areas with heavy traffic.
This goes without saying – do not take dressing up for the winters lightly. Take out your overcoats, big woollen jackets, warm socks and set the record straight for winter dressing. Staying protected from the cold breeze is also important, so take a scarf or muffler with you when you step out. While staying on par with the current fashion trends is important, maintaining a good enough protective layer of clothes is even more important.
Even if you do not feel especially thirsty in the winters, you must drink enough fluids to stay hydrated. Dehydration can cause a lot of health issues, even more so in a season that makes us more prone to falling ill. In addition to staying hydrated, ensure that you keep your meals ideally balanced with all the necessary nutrients. Having a balanced diet is the first step you need to take in order to stay in good health. Add enough fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals to your diet. Taking healthy fats in winters can also serve you in the best possible way. Avoid crash dieting or anything too severe and stay on a moderate diet throughout the season to maintain good immunity.
If you feel discomfort or have difficulty breathing for a while, go and see a doctor immediately. Do not wait for things to get worse; take action when you can have the problem cured in its early stages itself. Visit your primary care physician if you have trouble breathing consistently. Ensure that this is not because of an underlying condition and take the necessary steps to improve your lung health as prescribed by your doctor. If your breathing problems are because of an infection, start your medicines to control it in the early stages.
Do not miss out on your routine health check-ups, especially if your respiratory problems tend to get triggered in winters. Get yourself tested as soon as the winter season arrives and see if everything is okay. Also, try and get an allergy test done to find out if you have developed any new allergies. ‘Prevention is better than cure’ is not just a smart saying; it actually works very well when practised religiously. So, make sure that you keep a good track of your health issues before they turn into something major, requiring medical attention or hospitalisation.
Respiratory health should always be your priority, regardless of the season or weather. Prevention and precautions should always be taken. And to make things easier for you, ensuring good health for your lungs is nothing but following a few routine guidelines. Wearing a face mask in polluted places, wearing warm clothes, eating and drinking healthy and exercising are a few things you need to do here. Also, if you smoke, use this opportunity to quit smoking and open ways for a better, healthier you.