Winter health risks

It's great fun going walking in a winter wonderland like the lady in our picture here, but it's also a good idea to be aware that certain health issues become more prevalent at this time of year.

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We've listed several cold weather-related maladies and given some brief tips from the NHS on how to prevent or deal with them.

It seems your mum might have been right after all when she told you to wrap up warm or you'd catch a cold.

We've known for some time that the common cold is not caused by being cold, but it is believed that the body finds it harder to resist the cold virus when it is diverting energy elsewhere to keep you warm.

The best way to avoid catching a cold though is to be careful to avoid possible contamination by keeping surfaces and household objects clean and using disposable tissues rather than fabric ones. And remember to wash your hands frequently.

Known colloquially as the "winter vomiting bug", this nasty bug does what it says on the tin and more besides.

It's most common in places with lots of people such as hotels and schools and sufferers usually experience an unpleasant couple of days of vomiting and diarrhoea - making dehydration a risk.

It's a good idea to drink rehydration fluids, which are available from pharmacies.

Sufferers can find their asthma flares up more in winter, leaving them short of breath or feeling wheezy.

If prone to the illness, you are advised to wear a scarf over your nose and mouth in very cold temperatures, to be strict about taking your medication, carry your inhaler and consider staying indoors on particularly chilly days.

Sore Throats
Almost always caused by a virus, sore throats can nevertheless be aggravated by going quickly from a warm indoor environment to the icy-cold outdoors.

Gargling with warm, salty water is a quick way of making a sore throat feel better. It doesn't kill the infection but has anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe the pain. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a glass of cooling boiled water.

Heart Attacks
Obviously this is quite a rare one, but heart attacks do become more common in the colder months - when the heart is working harder to keep your body warm and blood pressure can be higher.

If at risk, stay indoors on cold days and wrap up warm when you do go out with a hat and scarf.

This can range from being highly unpleasant to being a killer, with pregnant women and the elderly being particularly at-risk.

If you think you might be vulnerable to flu see your GP and ask about getting the flu jab. It lasts a year and gives good protection against flu. The vaccine is updated each year as flu bugs adapt and the previous vaccine decreases in effectiveness.

Do you get ill more in the winter? What tips would you offer others? Comment below...
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