The Impact of Winter on our Health - Heritage Healthcare

The Impact of Winter on our Health

The cold weather that comes with winter can have a big effect on our health, especially those who are older or vulnerable. We discuss the health issues that can appear during the winter months and how we can provide support.

Winter Illnesses

The NHS website has listed 10 illnesses that affect people during winter. The most common illnesses include a cold and a sore throat, which can be treated by keeping hydrated or medicines recommended by a pharmacy.

Although there is no evidence to say weather affects joints, many people living with arthritis have found their joints become more stiff and painful when the weather becomes colder. The NHS has suggested swimming as a way to ease arthritis, as well as daily exercises. A common condition that can affect many of us is Raynaud’s phenomenon, which affects blood circulation, causing fingers and toes change colour and become painful. In some cases, this can be a short-term issue caused by being cold, anxious or stressed, but it can be the sign of a more serious condition. Keeping warm, having a balanced and healthy diet, regular exercises or relaxing can help, whilst smoking and drinking too much caffeine can hinder the process of treatment.

Flu can be a killer of vulnerable people, especially to those aged over 65 years or to someone living with a long-term health condition. The flu jab helps provide protection against the infection, stops it spreading to more people and lasts for one year. Many people are eligible to a free flu jab and it is encouraged those who are aged over 65 years, people living with certain medical conditions or living in long-stay residential homes should receive the jab before the flu season begins (December to January). Anyone receiving a carer’s allowance or are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person should also receive the jab, due to the risk the illness can have on those being cared for. You can find out more about the flu jab by visiting the NHS website here.

Find out what else is on the NHS’s winter illness list as well as tips on treatments by clicking here.

It’s not physical health that can be affected by the cold; winter can take a toll on mental health also. Approximately 1 in 15 people in the UK are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is a form of depression that is sometimes referred to as ‘winter blues’ and can begin at any age but most commonly between the ages of 18 and 30. Symptoms of SAD are sleep problems, lack of energy, overeating, loss of motivation, depression, anxiety, mood changes and withdrawal from social situations. The cause of SAD has been linked to reduced exposure of sunlight, with a theory that a lack of sunlight might stop part of the brain (hypothalamus) from working correctly, affecting the production of melatonin and serotonin and disrupting the body’s internal clock. GPs will often recommend different treatments for SAD, depending on what is suitable for the individual, including changes to lifestyle, light therapy, talking therapies or medication.

The drop in temperature can lead to more people staying indoors, especially those who are vulnerable or not as mobile as others. Half of all people aged 75 and over live alone, so the winter months can lead to isolation and loneliness for the older generation. Having a trusted friend regularly visiting is a priority. At Heritage Healthcare, our care team can be that friendly face. Care assistants can support clients within their own home, helping in any way they can with a bespoke care plan. They can provide companionship and enjoy a cup of tea and a chat, support clients going out into the community or with time-consuming household tasks. Personal care support helps clients who are suffering from a long-term health condition or winter illness to receive any treatments needed.

So, how can we prevent winter illnesses and support loved ones? Keeping warm both inside the home and outside is important. Make sure you or a loved one is prepared by wearing a comfortable coat, with a hat, scarf, gloves and sensible shoes to keep body temperatures stable. Homes should be warmed to at least 18°C, with curtains drawn at dusk and doors closed to stop drafts. Make sure heating systems are checked by someone qualified so they are working efficiently. Also, if you’re starting to feel ill, make sure you seek the right medical advice.

Find out more about the service we provide by visiting ‘Our Services’ page here or find your local Heritage Healthcare office by visiting the website here.

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