With the onset of winter weather, many people look forward to cozying up with family and friends, celebrating the holidays and sipping on a warm cup of hot cocoa. While winter often marks the start of a merry time of the year, it also brings on a wave of seasonal changes that can be harmful to our skin and bodies if we’re not careful.
During winter climate change, our bodies are affected in serious and sometimes unnoticeable ways. Small changes – like dryer air, darker days and wind chill – all make a difference. For instance, dry air and wind chill result from a lack of humidity, which makes our skin dry and crackly, and potentially prone to infections. Also, because of the later sunrise and earlier sunset, our skin is unable to absorb as much sunlight as it needs, so we experience a drop in Vitamin D levels. While we may not outwardly feel the effects of less Vitamin D, studies have shown that this deficiency is associated with cardiovascular disease, so our hearts certainly do feel the difference. Lack of Vitamin D during the winter has also been associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression linked with less sunlight during the winter months.
Another change the winter brings is a suppressed thirst. Winter sports are exciting, and require an equal amount of energy exertion as summer sports, but people often drink less water because we perspire less in the cold. This can not only result in dehydration, but also fatigue, nausea and dizziness.
So, before you step outside and enjoy the snow and cold winter air, be sure to follow these few simple tips to ensure you’re keeping your body healthy:
- Keep the air humid. Dry air typically results in dry skin, so keep a steam humidifier near your desk at work and next to your bed at home. This will help nourish your skin.
- Sprinkle salt or sand on icy patches. Thousands of people wind up in the hospital each year for ice-related injuries. By keeping tabs on the slippery patches near your workplace or home, you can help to avoid falling.
- Moisturize. In addition to using a humidifier, using powerful moisturizer on the parts of your body that experience wind chill most frequently, such as your hands and face, will help avoid skin cracks and irritation.
- Drink water frequently, as you would normally during the summer (8-9 cups each day is ideal). The key to enjoying winter weather is keeping yourself hydrated despite a potential lack of thirst.
- Wash your hands. Cold weather is a common precursor to the common cold and flu, so wash frequently to stop the spread of germs.
- Bundle up. This may seem like common sense, but is often forgotten. Sometimes one jacket isn’t enough to keep our bodies warm, so use layers and wear a hat and gloves to retain body heat. This article is a great tool to help you determine when it’s safe to layer up and enjoy the snowy weather or stay indoors.
Most importantly, if you’re concerned about how your body and skin will fare during the winter months, visit your primary care physician. As an expert in keeping your health top-notch, they can give you more detailed explanations of how seasonal changes can affect your body. At Principal Medical Group, we will help ensure you’re ready to enjoy the cold weather with comprehensive physicals that monitor your skin health, and with lifestyle consultations that offer techniques for staying healthy. Contact us to schedule a quality, one-on-one appointment where your health and wellbeing come first.