Dr. Mir Anayat
Withering of leaves on trees, cold waves and dipping of temperature signals the coming of winter season in Kashmir. Although cold season lasts for four to five months but the bone piercing cold is experienced in forty days of Chilli kalan, starting from 21 December to 31 January. The experience gets worse with the snowfall, especially for old people and children and bear its maximum brunt.
Kashmir: a paradise on earth is an old cliché. It might sound good to ears, snow clad mountains and trees would appear beautiful but for locals it brings a different experience rather an ugliest season.
Besides many miseries, a lot of health problems are triggered during the winter season. Knowing and understanding these problems could minimize the vulnerability and morbidity caused by them.
Dealing with cold weather ailments:
Flu is a major killer of vulnerable people and amongst most common diseases. People aged 65 and over and people with long-term health conditions, including diabetes and kidney disease, are particularly at risk.
The flu is a respiratory disease most commonly accompanied by a headache, fever, cold, body aches, chills, fatigue and cough. Typically the flu is highly-contagious and can spread to others via airborne droplet form. Between 10 – 20 percent of the population contracts the flu each year. It can come on suddenly and is more serious and long-lasting than a regular cold. A new flu shot is needed every year because the predominant flu viruses change.
The common cold is another disease which attacks all ages; however, children are especially vulnerable. On average, a child will get four to eight colds per year. The good thing is that as children grow, they develop resistance to more and more types of cold viruses. Colds typically start with a scratchy, irritated throat, muscle aches, headache, decreased appetite and sneezing. There is no vaccine for the common cold as there are more than 200 types of cold viruses. Treatment is usually aimed at the symptoms and as the old adage goes, “A cold will disappear in a week if you treat it and it will go away in seven days if you don’t.”
Some people suffer with sinusitis (inflammation of the sinus in the nasal cavity) all year round, but the cold weather seems to aggravate this condition for many. Histamine release causes constriction along the nasal cavity, which makes it difficult for the person to breathe. Sinusitis can also cause frequent sneezing, irritability and a mild headache. A build-up of mucous only increases the severity of the symptoms. There are a number of sinus medications available to help decrease the swelling and mucous production, but sometimes antibiotics are necessary.
As there are so many cold causing viruses, it has been difficult for scientists to develop a vaccine.
- Avoid close contact with someone infected with a cold.
- Eat lots of vitamin-rich fruit and vegetables regularly so that your immune system remains strong.
- When sneezing or coughing make sure it is done into a tissue discard the tissue carefully and wash your hands.
- If you sneeze into your hands make sure you wash them with soap and water immediately.
- If you have no tissues or a handkerchief cough into the inside (crook) of your elbow rather than your hands.
- Wash your hands regularly; cold viruses can be transmitted from one person to another by touch.
- Keep surfaces in your home clean – especially in the kitchen or bathroom.
- Avoid touching your face especially your nose and mouth.
- Doing your best to keep stress in check, drinking plenty of fluids, and dressing warm for the weather.
Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.
Asthma signs and symptoms include: Shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain, trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, a whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling (wheezing is a common sign of asthma in children),coughing or wheezing attacks that are worsened by a respiratory virus, such as a cold or the flu. Cold air is a major trigger of asthma symptoms and people with asthma should be especially careful in winter.
Learn Your Triggers
- Limit time around pets.Having a dog or cat in your home may trigger your asthma.
- Cover bedding. If mites are a trigger, use mite-proof covers on the mattress, and pillows. These help keep dust mites away overnight.
- Keep the house cool and dry.
- Wash your hands.This helps keep viruses from getting into your body when you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Stay away from people who are ill.
- Stay indoors on very cold, windy days. If you do go out, wear a scarf over your nose and mouth. Be extra vigilant about taking your regular medications, and keep rescue inhalers close by and in a warm place.
The article appeared in print edition of 28-3 December 2017