When most of us think of getting sick in the winter, we think of coughs, colds, and the flu. But cold and damp weather and changes in barometric pressure can aggravate symptoms of many chronic illnesses too. If you have a chronic condition, it’s important to know about and watch for these changes.
Winter weather and your chronic illness
Here is what you can do to minimize the impact of winter on seven common chronic health conditions.
Arthritis. There are many forms of arthritis; all cause joint inflammation. Arthritis makes using affected joints painful and difficult. Many arthritis patients report worsening symptoms when the weather is cold and damp, though clinical evidence for these claims is scarce. Some experts say that less physical activity and getting sick with the flu and other viruses may better explain increased arthritis symptoms during winter. Dressing warmly, staying hydrated, managing weight, protecting your joints (e.g., by wearing supportive shoes), and taking vitamin D supplements may all help manage arthritis symptoms in the winter months.
Asthma and allergies. Asthma is a condition that occurs when the airways within the lungs are inflamed, making breathing difficult. Extreme cold weather can cause airways to tighten further. Moreover, coughs, colds, and indoor allergies worsen asthma. If you have asthma, keep your inhaler close by and stay indoors when you can. Also, if you are allergic to such things in your home as pet dander, dust mites, and mold, your symptoms may increase during the winter months as a result of staying indoors more and keeping windows closed. Manage symptoms by regularly vacuuming, housecleaning, and washing your clothing and linens. Over-the-counter allergy medications can help, too.