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Cold Weather Ailments

Timeless Fitness Tips...

In the heart of cold weather, most people are exposed to common cold weather ailments. You can fight back by keeping your body in shape to enable you to fight off any of those pesky germs you do get exposed to.

Cold Weather Ailments

You can fight back by keeping your body in shape to enable you to fight off any of those pesky germs you do get exposed to.

What you can do to stay healthy:

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially those that contain vitamin C.
  • Get regular exercise but not excessive exercise! Excessive exercise can weaken the immune system and as a result, increase your risk of infection.
  • Stay calm. Increased risk of infections occurs in stressed out people.
  • Wash. This one you've most likely heard, but it's imperative; wash your hands often! Any good soap will suffice. Just wash well, rubbing hands with the soap for at least 20 seconds under warm water.
  • Avoid touching your face after contact with a sick person. This delivers germs near your mucous membranes and helps the bug get into your system.

The Cold-Weather Myth Buster

The thought that cold weather causes infections is actually a myth. Most colds occur in cold weather because we stay indoors and are exposed to others who are sick. Also, dry cold weather removes moisture from our airways, making them more susceptible to infection.

Wash Your Hands

When Navy recruits were ordered to wash their hands at least five times a day, there were 45-percent fewer bouts of respiratory illness among the ranks.

Hand-washing has been recommended for more than 150 years as a simple but effective way of stopping the spread of illness, but most people admit they do not follow the advice. Take that extra minute and wash your hands!

Wash Your Hands

Serious Hand Cleaning: Twenty full seconds of scrubbing is what it takes to lift germs off skin and carry them away when you rinse.

Away from the sink? Choose hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol, and don't skimp. People often use too little or wipe it off before it has dried.

Note: Water is a wonderful cleanser in its natural state. This fact seems to be under-rated, but it's true! So if you find you cannot access soap but need to cleanse your hands, just find some water and give them a good rinse.

Keep your guard up and remember, an ounce of prevention can do wonders - and save you from needing a pound of Ricola and Robitussin!

Identifying five common respiratory infections:

Winter Weather

  1. The Common Cold. Technically called nasopharyngitis, it can be caused by dozens of viruses. Symptoms occur fast and furiously! One goes from feeling normal to a scratchy throat, stuffy nose, muscle aches, sneezing and sometimes a mild fever. People usually feel better by day five, but coughing and nasal drainage may last two weeks.
  2. Strep Throat. This serious bacterial infection is technically streptococcal pharyngitis. It requires an antibiotic. Key signs are severe sore throat, fever, difficulty swallowing and sometimes nasal stuffiness. See a doctor.
  3. Acute Bronchitis. This is an infection in the tubes (bronchi) that connect the throat and lungs. Mucus congests these airways; a hallmark of bronchitis is a cough that produces phlegm. It is usually caused by viruses; sometimes by bacteria. Symptoms usually improve in two to three weeks, but some people cough for more than a month.
  4. Influenza. Often people confuse this with the flu. If you've ever had true influenza, you know the difference! Flu and cold infect the same tissues, but flu is severe, usually with headaches, muscle aches, significant fatigue, fever above 102 degrees and a significant cough. Bed rest! Plenty of fluids!
  5. Pneumonia. When viruses or bacteria infect lung tissues itself, it's a serious health threat. Key symptom is coughing. Check with a doctor if the cough is severe, if you have a fever above 102 degrees or significant weakness or if phlegm is bloody, thick, green or brown. You may need a chest x-ray.

Study Says...

Hackensack University Medical Center doctors found that much of the bacteria on the skin are protective. It is there to prevent harmful bacteria from flourishing and making you ill. If those bacteria are not there, it cannot do its job. Scrubbing with antibacterial soap can remove some good bacteria along with the bad, says their study.

Anti-Germ Tip: Always bring your own pen with you. Everywhere. The one at the grocery store checkout always harbors viruses and bacteria.

Viruses can spread to surfaces in a room within two to four hours of the infected person's arrival. Avoid touching common spots and wash your hands often.

Colds and Exercise

Have a cold and wondering whether it's safe to workout?

Man Sneezing

Above or Below the Neck?

A study published by the American College of Sports Medicine found that moderate exercise doesn't affect a cold's duration or severity, as long as symptoms are concentrated above the neck, such as a sore throat or runny nose.

But people with below-the-neck symptoms such as fever, sore muscles or diarrhea should avoid exercise.

Previous research shows that intense exercise can intesify symptoms though, so if you do workout with a cold, take it easy.

Don't Forget Fluids

Has your doctor ever told you to drink a lot when you are sick with a cold? The reason is the liquid keeps mucous membranes moist, enabling them to trap cold viruses and dispose of them before they can infect more of your cells.

The most recommended fluid is water, but diluted fruit juices, seltzer, decaffeinated coffee and tea work, too. Aim for eight glasses a day. Drinking enough fluids is especially important in the winter when indoor and outdoor air is much drier.

Wipe, Don't Blow Your Nose

"The nose is a germ cannon and there are many good reasons to avoid trying to set it off. " -- University of Arizona Microbiologist, Charles Gerba

Wiping your nose is something you were supposed to outgrow as a child. You were probably encouraged from a young age to blow your nose instead. But there is no scientific reason to avoid wiping your nose and there are good reasons to avoid blowing it.

When you are just blowing your nose into a tissue, you are spreading virus laden mucous into the sinuses, causing inflammation. Handkerchiefs are an ideal germ-spreader. Organisms persist from one load of laundry to the next, so if you are washing hankies in one load, you are actually blowing your nose on everything you wear, from one load to the next. Hot water can help reduce the effect, but won't eliminate it. When it comes to your nose, let it run, wipe it on a tissue and you won't share your germs with others or with yourself.

Scientists at the University of Virginia found that the more people with colds blew their noses, the longer their colds lasted. Wiping their noses, on the other hand, caused no worsening of the cold.