The cold weather is here, and as every native Pennsylvanian knows, it’s here to stay well into March. It’s just the beginning for frosted windows, salt trucks on the roads, and runny noses after coming inside from the cold. Other than remembering to pack your ice scraper in your car, keep a look out for black ice, and carry your hat and gloves wherever you go, it’s important to understand that the cold weather can have effects on what goes on inside your body as well.
According to Health & Wellness Magazine, “a drop in temperature can affect your health, no matter how cold.” Here are four ways cold weather can impact your health.
- Your immune system. During the wintertime, people spend more time inside, where they are in closer contact with others, making flu, cough, and cold germs spread more easily. You’re more likely to catch a cold because your body preserves blood flow to maintain body heat, which means you have fewer white blood cells to fight infections.
What you can do: Always wash your hands after coming in contact with others. You can also take daily vitamins to give you a boost.
- Your heart. Cold weather narrows your blood vessels, which raises the risk of heart attack.
What you can do: Wear proper attire, such as hats, gloves, and a heavy coat, to keep your body warm. If you have a history of heart problems, avoid activities such as snow shoveling, which can put too much stress on your heart.
- Your joints. Your knees, hips, and other joints tend to ache more in cold weather. Temperature drops can increase your arthritis pain.
What you can do: Exercise. Keep your body moving to loosen your joints. Over time, your joints will respond easier to movement and cause less pain. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist if you have a condition that prevents rigorous activity.
- Your skin. Dry winter air often leads to dry skin.
What you can do: Shower in lukewarm water to add moisture. Then, use an oil-based moisturizer to prevent evaporation.
While some of these risks are not as great as others, some could land you in the emergency room. Keep these health risks and preventive tips in mind as you take on the cold this winter!