Winter is commonly associated with poor health and a spread of viral infections; however, it is possible to avoid the winter blues and try to keep healthy. The following paragraphs will outline the most common winter illnesses and offer advice on how to stay healthy this winter.

Common illnesses

Coughs

A cough is commonly caused by an infection of the respiratory tract and can be chesty, dry or tickly. Coughs usually wear off in time but they can cause discomfort and disturb sleep which will make you feel tired and irritable. To overcome a cough you should try to get plenty of rest, eat well and drink plenty of fluids; it may also be beneficial to try and drink hot water with honey and lemon in. If you have a cough, take care to cover your mouth when you cough as this will help prevent the spread of infection.

Colds

The common cold affects most of us in the winter. Colds are viral infections and therefore cannot be cured by medication; however you can ease some of the symptoms with over the counter pain relief. Common symptoms include a runny nose, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, sore ears, a high temperature and feeling tired and run down. To fight off colds you need plenty of rest and fluids; you should also try to eat lots of fruit and vegetables as they are high in vitamins and minerals which will boost your immune system and help to fight off the cold. Wrap up warm and try to stay indoors if the weather is bad; take care to dispose of any used tissues and cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.

Flu

The symptoms of flu are similar to those associated with the common cold; however, they may be more exaggerated and cause you to feel lethargic and lacking in energy for a number of days. Over the counter pain relief can help to ease some of the symptoms and you should have plenty of rest. Try to keep your intake of vitamins and minerals up as this will help to boost your immune system; you should keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. If you are vulnerable to flu you should ask your GP about getting a flu jab; usually these are recommended for people with asthma, young children and the elderly.

Keeping healthy

NHS guidelines suggest that you follow a simple set of guidelines in order to combat winter health problems; these include eating well, wrapping up warm and keeping active.

Eating well

It can be tempting to fill yourself up with comfort food when it gets cold outside; however you should try to make sure you are eating plenty of healthy foods all year round. If you fancy something to warm you up, try to pack your meals full of vegetables; a stew or hotpot is a great way to get your 5 a day and will help to warm and fill you up. It is important to ensure you get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need as this will help to boost your immune system which will help you to fight off infections and illnesses. Remember that your 5 a day can also include juices, smoothies and soups.

Keeping hydrated

It is important to drink plenty of fluids as this will help to keep you hydrated; water is essential for several bodily functions so drinking lots will help your body to work as effectively as possible and will prevent you from suffering from the effects of dehydration, which can be debilitating.

Exercising

It can be difficult to motivate yourself to exercise in the winter when it goes dark early and it’s cold outside; however, exercise has several benefits for both your mental and physical well-being and you should try to do it all year round. If you don’t fancy going out in the cold you may wish to consider getting a workout DVD which you can do in your own time at home or going to a gym or exercise class. Exercise equipment is also relatively cheap now so you may find it beneficial to buy an exercise machine such as an exercise bike or a treadmill to work out at home.

Rest and sleep

Research has shown that most people are not getting the required amount of sleep to allow their body time to rest and recuperate. In the winter, people feel more inclined to go to bed earlier as the evenings are darker, so use the opportunity to catch up on sleep; this will make you feel more energetic and improve both your work and social lives. You need lots of rest if you are struggling with an infection or illness.

Wrapping up warm

Keeping warm in the winter can help to reduce the likelihood of you catching an illness. This includes wrapping up in warm clothing when you go out and keeping your home warm. It is particularly important for elderly people and young children to be warm in the winter. It is recommended that you wear hats, scarves and gloves as well as several layers of thin clothing to keep warm when you go out. Experts recommend that rooms in your home should be kept at a minimum of 21 degrees throughout the winter.