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Winter Diseases and Health Precautions to take during New Year Celebrations

Winter Diseases

Dr Juri Bharat Kalita

December is the season of festivities and holidays. There is an excitement associated with the absence of rains and the sweaty summer heat; and the approaching holidays. The oncoming New Year and the cold preceding/oncoming winter days set the stage for picnics, parties and bonfires. And the associated sets of health related problems as things may sometimes go a little out of hand.

An international journal of social science and medicine has published the findings of a research which concluded that Christmas and New Year appear to be risk factors for deaths from many diseases.

Reason number 1: Alcohol consumption

Partying and picnicking with peers and friends make it easy to just keep drinking leading to binge drinking even if you are not a normally a drinker. And if you are drinker, going overboard is too easy to do under the circumstances which could offset new difficult-to-break habits. These would lead to medical problems down the road.

Alcohol poisoning – Once your blood alcohol level gets so high, you will Very high alcohol levels may lead to symptoms such as confusion, vomiting, hypothermia, seizures and possibly even death.

Drunk driving – Many people involved in drunk driving accidents claim they were perfectly capable of handling a motor vehicle. The ability to understand their driving ability is reduced so this may lead to injury or death to you, a passenger or an innocent party.

Losing consciousness – Any time you pass out from drinking, you have the risk of dying by choking in your own vomit.

High Blood Pressure, Weight Gain and Diabetes – Alcohol consumption leads to a variety of long term diseases. And can trigger diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and in the end, heart disease from being overweight.

Forming a Habit – Unfortunately, alcohol is a very addictive drug. Not everyone that has a few drinks for special occasions will become dependent on it, but if you make the few drinks many and the special occasions a regular routine, it will happen before you even know it. You probably won’t even know it until it is too late.

So while “ringing in the New Year” with a glass of champagne or having a few drinks over the course of the night may be harmless, it is important to be aware of how many a few is. Make sure you are with friends you know will cut you off if they notice you getting a bit too tipsy for your own good.

Reason number 2: Calorie laden and fatty foods

The season of festivities starting around the New Year starting with Christmas and ending with Magh Bihu, invariably go hand in hand with calorie laden and fatty foods. While these foods are mostly tolerated well by the fitness conscious who burn off the excess fats and calories by exercising and a regulated control of their diets, the diabetic, the high pressure patient and the overweight need to watch what they eat. Uncontrolled intake may precipitate strokes and heart attacks; and increase infections because of high sugar levels in the blood.

Reason no 3: Dust, bonfire smoke and the cold winds

Picnicking in dusty picnic spots and the bonfire smokes built in the cold winter nights may precipitate asthma in asthmatics. Family members of an asthmatic individual must keep tabs on the medication availability, like puffs and nebulisers. Make sure that the medications are at hand at all times, wherever you are, indoors or outdoors. The cold and dry air leads to tightening of airways and makes it even worse while breathing. Try to keep the house as dust free as possible by wet mopping, wet dusting and vacuum cleaning. Keep yourselves warm with enough warm clothes especially when going out of the house.

Sinusitis with symptoms of congestion, headaches, coughing, running nose as well as post nasal drip symptoms may be precipitated and make people feel miserable during winters. Sinus problems occur when homes are closed and there is no proper ventilation. To stay clear of sinusitis this season, make sure you get enough rest, eat healthy, drink plenty of fluids and avoid dust.

Reason number 4: Not washing hands and not using cough etiquette

Common Cold- One of the predominant diseases of winter is the common cold. Most winter colds are due to viruses and not bacteria. This is important because viral diseases do not respond to the antibiotics used for bacterial colds. The cold will therefore last ‘seven days if treated and one week if not’ as the wise old adage goes, whether is treated with antibiotics or not. So antibiotics must be avoided unless prescribed by a physician.

Prevention is easily possible with some basic precautions if the immunity of the body is not compromised. Develop an exercise routine depending on your health status. Yoga is helpful and there is a form of yoga exercise available for every kind of health status. Keep yourself covered with warm clothes, especially when outdoors. Eat healthy nutritious foods, balanced with adequate amount of proteins, healthy carbs and vegetables. Keep yourself adequately hydrated with plenty of liquid intake.

Bask in sunlight whenever possible to replenish any Vitamin D deficiencies. Most importantly, wash your hands, (and make your near and dear ones wash theirs too), especially after coming in from outdoors, and when in the vicinity of someone who has a visible cold. Employ cough etiquettes and teach others to do so as well.

Cough etiquette requires that a person should cough or sneeze into the inner part of his bent elbows or into a tissue which should be discarded immediately into a waste bin. This prevents the bacteria/viruses from sticking onto the hands of the person or going into the air and transferring infection to others.

Reason number 5: Low humidity

Dry Skin- The low humidity during winters contributes to the skin becoming drier than in the summers. Skin gets dry and scaly, itchy, lips are chapped, dry noses may lead to nose bleeds. Avoiding long hot showers and baths helps. Short baths and using warm, instead of hot water, reduces the dryness. Hydration is important so have plenty of fluids. Body lotions and moisturisers after baths help to retain the moisture. Washing hands frequently is unavoidable, so make sure to moisturize your hands after each wash.