Slips & Trips – Bruises, cuts and broken bones are common along with sprains and strains. The lower back and head are most often injured along with arms and hands as people attempt to break their fall. Overshoes or grips of some kind, or boots with an aggressive sole pattern are needed, and even then you can’t always expect to stay upright. If icy conditions exist, do not venture out unless necessary.
Asthma – Cold air is a trigger for asthma attacks. The only way to avoid this is by staying indoors or by wearing a scarf over the mouth so very cold air is not breathed in so quickly. Breathing through the nose rather than the mouth helps to warm up the air, too.
Colds & Flu – Colds and flu are not caused by cold weather. They are caused by viral infections of the upper respiratory tract that you catch from others. Why colds and flu are more prevalent in the winter months is not fully known though behavior has an effect. We are more likely to be indoors with other people, and ventilation is likely to be worse than when it is warmer. The immune system is depressed to some degree by cold weather which particularly affects the upper respiratory tract when cold air is breathed in. A “cold nose” gives rhinoviruses more opportunities to reproduce. Therefore, you are more likely to catch a cold if one is around. In warmer temperatures, the immune system is more likely to intercept the viruses before they can result in an illness. Covering the nose to keep it warm is a way of trying to reduce the chances of catching a cold. The common cold is the most prevalent human disease with adults getting 2-5 colds a year; for children, this rate is doubled, and it is up to 12 a year for school children. It seems to be spread mainly by touch of contaminated surfaces, though air-borne infection is also important, the virus can then often be taken into the body by rubbing the eyes or touching the face.
Influenza is a similar infection to the common cold but much more serious and is a major killer of the elderly and infirm, especially those with long term illnesses such as kidney disease or diabetes. Infection routs are as fold colds. Annual “flu shots” against the most prevalent strain any particular year are recommended for the most vulnerable groups.
Sore Throats – Almost always caused by viruses and transmitted in a similar manner as colds and flu.
Conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pinkeye,” may rear its ugly head when you have a cold because both conditions are caused by viruses. However, viruses are not the only culprit behind
conjunctivitis; bacterial infections as well as environmental irritants and allergies can also be to blame.
It is recommended that kids with conjunctivitis stay home from school for the first few days of treatment, due to the difficulty kids have with cold hygiene. This may be necessary to avoid spreading conjunctivitis to other children. Overall, conjunctivitis is usually a nuisance problem that is of little health risk and easily managed but can be extremely contagious.
Dry Eye – Since cold wind increases evaporation of moisture from the top layer of your cornea this can cause exaggerating problems with dryness you may have already.
Additional heat in your home can cause an increase in dryness. Antihistamines taken for runny noses can really dry the cornea. To combat these items, artificial tears four to six times a day can combat these changes. If outside in the wind, wear sunglasses to protect the eyes, and wear hats with low brims to prevent trash particles from blowing into the eyes. Contact lens wearers should be even more diligent in the use of rewetting drops as moisture is necessary for the lens to retain its shape and remain comfortable.
Enjoy the winter season by remaining healthy and safe. If necessary, see your eye doctor for additional treatments.