Winter Illness Prevention

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Winter is right around the corner you should be prepared by knowing how to prevent the illnesses that can come with the season.

Cold and flu

Cold and flu are very prevalent during the winter season because people are stuck together in small spaces indoors. To prevent yourself from catching a cold, be sure that you are washing your hands regularly. Wash your hands was soap and water before eating and or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. This is the most basic way in which you can prevent bacteria and viruses from entering your body. If you do catch a cold, try to cough or sneeze into the sleeve of your elbow. This prevents droplets that carry the bacteria or virus from spreading and settling on the surrounding areas. It also keeps your hands clean so that you can touch doorknobs or other objects without spreading the germs.

Getting Enough Vitamins

There’s not much sun to kill germs in the winter and your immune system may be lower as you’re not getting your vitamin D or other nutrients. Try to make sure that you are eating a healthy and balanced diet and taking the appropriate multivitamins to keep yourself and your immune system the best it could be to fight off infections. Getting a flu shot from your health practitioner is also key to keeping you and your loved ones safe. Infants and the elderly are at high risk of having serious health effects or death from the flu and they are not always able to get a vaccination themselves. Getting one yourself helps to prevent transmission to those at risk.

Frostbite and Hypothermia

Other health issues that can happen in the winter are things like frostbite and hypothermia. Planning and prevention are key to these illnesses. Make sure that you are aware of what the temperature will be before you head out and dress appropriately for the weather. If it is going to be significantly colder then average at you should avoid being outdoors for long periods of time. If you do have to outdoors make sure that you have warm clothing including hats, mitts, warm socks, and waterproof boots. Wool or fleece is best, while cotton is very poor as an insulator if wet.

If you do get caught in the cold and are unable to seek warm shelter, call for help and try to keep your body heat in by curling up into a ball. The heat escape lessening position (H.E.L.P) involves holding your arms tightly against your sides and across your chest, with your legs pulled together and up toward your chest. This prevents heat from escaping from areas that release heat quickly like your armpits, groin, sides of chest and knees.

Symptoms of frostbite include numbness and tingling, pain, and change and colouration of the skin. The best treatment for frostbite is to get to a warm area as soon as you experience these early signs. As it progresses you may get blood-filled blisters, hardness, clumsiness, and can result in permanent damage.


Hypothermia is when your body temperature dips below 35 degrees Celsius and can occur much more quickly than you may think, especially if you are wet. If you fall into a frozen pond or lake I can set in within seconds to minutes. Ensure that the thickness of the ice is suitable for what you are planning to do. Ice should be a minimum of 5 cm thick for one person to walk on and 7.5 cm for groups. Symptoms of hypothermia include numbness, confusion, slurred speech, lack of coordination.

To treat hypothermia or frostbite remove wet clothing, wrap in warm blankets and go to a warm area. Warm water can be used, but avoid hot. Do not use friction to warm up the area as it can cause skin breakdown. Give the person a sugary snack if they are able to swallow normally. Seek medical attention for severe frostbite or hypothermia.

Winter is an enjoyable time with many outdoor activities as well as indoor festivities. Make sure that you protect yourself from germs and from cold-related illnesses to be able to enjoy the season fully.

Source: NHS,Seagrant,

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