5 Facts for Staying Healthy in Winter
From the time we are young, we hear advice about how to stay healthy in the cold weather. Some of this advice is common sense, but some of it is based on common misunderstandings. It is easy to see how these myths may get started. A good example is the common observation that people catch colds easier when the weather gets colder. A biologist at Rush University Medical Center, John Segreti, MD 1, says that this is not, in fact, because the temperatures change abruptly, or because it is colder. "You get a cold or the flu because you get a virus," says Segreti. "In the winter, we spend more time indoors near other people and their viruses."
The following 5 misunderstandings about cold weather will likely sound familiar. Understanding the truth behind them will help you to stay healthier this winter.
1. Most of the body's heat is lost through the head.
You do lose heat through your head, but any body part that is not covered will lose heat. According to some research, people will not lose more than 10% of their body heat through the head.
Wearing a hat when you go outside is always a good idea when it is cold. The hat will help you to stay warm, but it will not provide sufficient protection. Consider your clothing from head to toe.
2. Green mucus means bacterial infection
This is also a myth. If you cough up green mucus, you might be surprised to know that it is not abnormal. The fact that the mucus is green means that the illness you do have is losing its grip.
If you cough up yellow mucus, on the other hand, your body is still fighting the illness that is making you sick. Clear mucus is seen when the illness is just getting started.
3. You get the flu from the flu shot
Since there is no live virus in a flu shot, it is not possible for it to give you the flu. If you experience flu-like symptoms, that's simply your immune system being activated. Many of the symptoms we associate with being sick are not triggered by the virus itself, but by our immune response.
A flu shot is not a guarantee that you will not get the flu, since there is no vaccine that is 100% effective. But this should not keep you from getting a flu shot. You will be protected from the most common strains of flu, and if you do get sick, your symptoms are not likely to be as severe.
4. Dry heat from the radiator makes you sick
According to J Dutton, MD 2, an otolaryngologist at Rush, that statement is not true. "Radiator heat can dry out your nasal passages and cause discomfort and nose bleeds, but it can’t cause a respiratory infection."
5. Shoveling snow puts you at a higher risk for a heart attack
A cardiologist at Rush,Gary Schaer 3, MD says this is true. The reason is that the cold weather constricts the arteries, and a sudden increased workload on the heart from any extreme activity, including shoveling, puts you at risk. "It's a more stressful activity than most winter sports," says Schaer. "In just two minutes, your heart rate can reach a dangerous point."
When a person is healthy and active, shoveling snow should not be a problem. Some people don't know they have other risks, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension, so it is a good idea to be cautious. Schaer recommends taking frequent breaks and only shoveling small shovels full of snow.
Any exercise is bound to be more stressful when it is cold outside, according to Schaer. It is always a good idea to see your doctor before participating in any extreme winter activities, especially if you have to shovel snow. Your doctor will guide you as to whether or not you are at a greater risk.