12 winter illnesses

 Winter weather can trigger or worsen some health problems. Some of these are asthma, a sore throat, and cold sores. Here are some tips for battling cold-weather ailments.


It is important to wash your hands regularly to prevent colds. In this way, any bugs you might have picked up from other people’s surfaces, like light switches, can be destroyed.

Keeping your house and any household items such as cups, glasses, and towels clean is also important, especially if someone in the household is ill.

Top tip: If you get a cold, use paper tissues instead of handkerchiefs to prevent reinfecting your hands.

Sore throat

A sore throat occurs frequently in winter, and most of the time, the cause is a viral infection.

Evidence suggests that temperature changes, such as going from a warm, centrally heated room to the cold outdoors, may also affect the throat.

Top tip: Gargling with warm, salty water is an easy and quick remedy for a sore throat. Mix one teaspoon of salt with boiled water that has partially cooled down.

The treatment will not heal the infection, but it can soothe inflammation and reduce pain.


Asthma symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath are triggered by cold air. Asthma sufferers must avoid triggering triggers during the winter.

Top tip: The best thing to do on a cold, windy day is to stay inside. Make sure you cover your nose and mouth with a scarf if you decide to go out.

Take your regular medications as directed, and keep reliever inhalers close at hand.


Norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, is a highly contagious stomach virus. Although it can strike at any time, it is more common in winter and in places like hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, and schools.

Illnesses are unpleasant, but they usually go away after a few days.

Top tip: When people are ill with vomiting and diarrhoea, they should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. The elderly and young children are particularly vulnerable.

You can reduce the risk of dehydration by drinking oral rehydration fluids (available at pharmacies).

Painful joints

Many people with arthritis report that their joints become more painful and stiff in winter, though it is unclear why this happens. There is no evidence that changing weather leads to joint damage.

Top tip: During the winter months, many people get depressed, which can make them more sensitive to pain? Everything, including medical conditions, feels worse.

The benefits of daily exercise can be felt on both a physical and mental level. Swimming is ideal since it is easy on the joints.

Cold sores

We all know that cold sores usually occur when we are run down or stressed. Cold sores can’t be cured, but you can reduce your chances of getting one by looking after yourself during winter.

Top tip: Do something every day that makes you feel less stressed, like taking a hot bath, taking a walk in the park, or watching your favourite movie.

Heart attacks

In winter, heart attacks are more common. It may be because cold weather increases blood pressure and puts more strain on the heart. When you are cold, your heart also works harder to keep you warm.

Top tip: Stay warm in your home as much as possible. To keep warm in bed, heat the main rooms you use to at least 18C and use a hot water bottle or electric blanket.

Wrap yourself up warm when you’re outside by wearing a hat, scarf, and gloves.

Cold hands and feet

Raynaud’s phenomenon causes the fingers and toes to change colour and become extremely painful in cold weather.

Fingers may turn white, then blue, then red, and throb and tingle. The small blood vessels in your hands and feet spasm, temporarily reducing blood flow to your hands and feet.

Medications can help in severe cases, but most people manage to live with their symptoms.

Top tip: Don’t smoke or drink caffeine (both can exacerbate symptoms) and always wear gloves, socks, and shoes when it’s cold outside.

Dry skin

During the winter, when the environment is less humid, it is more common to suffer from dry skin.

During winter, it’s especially important to moisturize. In spite of popular belief, moisturizing lotions and creams are not absorbed by the skin. They prevent the skin’s natural moisture from evaporating by acting as a sealant.

Apply moisturizer after a bath or shower, when your skin is still moist, and before going to bed.

Top tip: Have a warm shower rather than a hot one. The skin feels drier and itchier when the water is too hot.


Those who are vulnerable to the flu are at a greater risk of death. People with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are particularly at risk, including those aged 65 and over, pregnant women, and people with long-term health conditions.

You can prevent getting the flu by having the flu jab (or flu nasal spray for children aged 2 to 17). Vaccines provide good protection against the flu and last for one year.

Pneumococcal vaccines, which protect against pneumonia, are also available to people over 65 and to those with long term health conditions.

Top tip: If you’re not sure whether you need the flu vaccine, ask your doctor or read our article on who should receive one. Those at high risk should see their GPs get the vaccination.


Pneumonia causes the lungs to be inflamed and can cause persistent coughing, muscle twitches, and fatigue. According to Harvard Wellbeing Distributing, “the endless majority of pneumonia cases are caused by airborne organisms, usually microscopic organisms or infections.” Since microbes and infections are more prevalent in winter, pneumonia cases may also be more prevalent.

Top tip: Aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen), or acetaminophen can help you control your fever. Children should not be given aspirin. Fluids help loosen secretions and push phlegm upward.

Whooping Cough

A whooping hack is additionally called pertussis and may even be bacterial contamination, which is generally found in infants and children. This sickness typically starts out similar to a common cold, but can quickly progress to hacking that closes in a pant for discussion, which, more often than not, sounds like whooping cough. The hack can be accompanied by a fever, runny nose, watery eyes, or wheezing.

Top tip: Keep your home free of irritants – as much as possible – that can trigger coughings, such as smoke, dust, and chemical fumes. Vaporizing with a clean, cool mist can help loosen mucus and soothe coughs. Handwashing should be done properly.

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