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Wellness

Spending the Winter Indoors May Lead to Illness – Here’s How to Address It

It is widely known that individuals are more susceptible to illnesses during the winter season. As the temperature decreases, the body’s ability to combat germs diminishes, increasing the likelihood of catching the common cold, flu, and even COVID-19.

However, it is not just inadequate cold-weather attire that can make you sick during winter. Remaining indoors throughout the season can create favorable conditions for various bodily discomforts.

Below are the ways in which staying indoors can contribute to winter illnesses, along with some strategies to preserve your well-being until spring arrives.

Can Winter Result in Illness?

If you believed that staying indoors from December to March was the best approach to avoid winter illnesses, you might be surprised. Unfortunately, even cozying up next to a fireplace can expose you to cold-causing elements.

A wood-burning fireplace emits fine particulate matter that can be harmful to the lungs. Inhaling smoke can trigger asthma attacks, bronchitis, as well as worsen heart and lung conditions in older individuals. Previous studies have shown that 70% of the smoke released through the flue re-enters your home.

Similarly, low indoor temperatures pose significant health risks. Recent medical research indicates that a 9°F drop in temperature within your nasal passages can eradicate 50% of beneficial bacteria crucial for fighting off viruses.

Dry indoor conditions can also lead to irritating sinus symptoms such as sore throat, sinus pressure, headaches, and nosebleeds. Insufficient moisture in your sinus cavities can result in inflammation in the nose, throat, and mouth.

Just like you, pests may seek refuge from the winter cold and take shelter inside your home. Unfortunately, rodents may carry harmful diseases that can make you ill – especially prevalent in older homes with multiple openings and gaps.

Moreover, spending the entire winter indoors can also impact your mental health. Approximately 10 million Americans experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the shorter days, leading to feelings of sadness, fatigue, and weight changes.

5 Suggestions for Maintaining Indoor Wellness During Winter

Preserving your health during the winter months is crucial. You can mitigate indoor illness risks by adhering to these useful recommendations.

1. Layer Up

Wearing multiple layers of clothing to keep warm is the most effective way to bolster your immune system.

Don long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, trousers, and socks to maintain an optimal body temperature for overall health.

2. Embrace Outdoor Strolls

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you have to confine yourself indoors entirely. Since you’ll be layered up anyway, consider venturing outside to combat feelings of depression and anxiety.

Physical activity, such as brisk walking, activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, enhancing your mood.

Research indicates that spending 2.5 hours outdoors daily provides ample vitamin D and lowers the risk of long-term depression.

3. Eliminate Drafts

Sealing windows and doors prevents cold air from infiltrating your living space. Weatherproofing enhances your home’s energy efficiency, reducing the strain on your HVAC system to maintain indoor temperatures.

Furthermore, sealing gaps inhibits rodents and insects from entering, thereby lowering the risk of diseases.

4. Maintain Good Hygiene

The flu season typically spans from October to May, peaking between December and February.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated 9–41 million cases of flu annually between 2010 and 2020. Moreover, researchers believe there were approximately 140,000–710,000 hospitalizations and 12,000–15,000 deaths per year during that period.

Adopting good hygiene practices, such as frequent handwashing and using antibacterial cleaners, can help prevent contracting the flu this winter. Reconsidering the use of masks can also aid in preventing germ spread.

5. Nourish Your Body

Weight gain is common during the holiday season due to numerous gatherings and tempting delights.

Studies show that the average winter weight gain is 0.4–1 kilogram (kg), equivalent to approximately 1–2 pounds (lbs). Over a decade, experts suggest this could result in a 5–10 kg or 11–22 lb increase.

Instead of indulging in rich pastries and comfort foods, prioritize a balanced diet with an abundance of seasonal fruits and vegetables to avoid neglecting nutrition during winter.

Prevent Winter Illnesses

You can navigate the entire winter season without falling ill. By prioritizing your health and establishing favorable conditions for your body, you can significantly enhance your ability to combat viruses and germs.

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