The sharp cold winter wind snaps at your hair and you feel the chill creeping, unwelcome, into your body. But that’s not all winter brought to your door step. The infamous cold and flu coupled with a croaky sore throat, not to mention dry, chapped lips and skin. Whilst we can’t escape winter, there are a few things that we can do to protect and prevent these winter ailments.
Cold and flu
Starting with the basics, having good hygiene can help minimise your risk of catching a cold or flu. This includes washing your hands before eating, not sharing food and cutlery with someone who is unwell, and even avoiding touching your eyes and nose to prevent transfer of viruses into your body.
Despite everything you do, you find yourself still falling victim to a cold or flu. Some medications which are commonly used to help with cold and flu symptoms include paracetamol for fever aches and pain, and phenylephrine for blocked nose. Decongestant nasal sprays containing xylometazoline(Otrivin) or oxymetazoline(Drixine) are also a popular option but should not be used for more than 5 consecutive days. Alternatively, saline sprays such as Fess or NeilMed, help flush out nasal mucus and can be used as often as required.
But if you were wanting something to help boost your immune system, look out for products containing Echinacea, Vitamin C and Zinc. These can help shorten the duration of the cold and flu. It is also recommended you speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you take any prescription medications and are uncertain about which cold and flu medication suits you or whether you can take a particular supplement or herb.
Viruses are the cause of 70-90% of all sore throats with the remaining caused mostly by bacterial infection, glandular fever and candidiasis. There are many products available to help reduce the symptoms of a sore throat including lozenges, gargles and sprays. Products containing local anaesthetics such as lignocaine or benzocaine help numb the pain. Additionally, anti-inflammatories such as benzydamine also provide pain relief. Brands such as Difflamhave a full range to suit individual preferences. Other ranges include Strepsils and Betadine. If uncertain about the severity of your sore throat, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
Dry & Cracked Skin, Cuticles & Lips
The dry winter air saps all the moisture from your skin, from your legs to your face to your lips and even your cuticles. Make sure you use a good moisturiser such as Ego QV or Cetaphil. These help seal in moisture in your skin so the best time to apply them is after your bath or shower. Soap products can also dry out the skin. Use a soap-free wash to help minimise drying, also available from the Ego QV and Cetaphil ranges. Similarly, after washing your hands, moisturise them with products like Aveeno and Dermaveen. This will save you the pain from cracked and peeling cuticles. Licking your lips in winter won’t help keep them moist. In fact, it is completely the opposite, causing lips to dry, crack and bleed. Instead, use a lip balm such as Suvana Pawpaw Balmor Burt’s Bees Balms,to seal in the moisture in your lips so you can keep on smiling all winter without grimacing. Don’t forget, the most basic thing you can do is keep hydrated. The skin contains around 60% water so simply by keeping hydrated during winter can help hydrate your skin.
With every day stress along with the strain on your immune system and dry chapped lips, viruses that cause cold sores are just lying in wait to surface. It starts with an itch, burn or tingle, followed by blisters and then crusting. Topical products containing aciclovir (Zovirax) help fight the virus but work best when used at the first signs of a cold sore. Other topical products such as those containing povidone-iodine (Betadine Cold Sore) may help prevent secondary bacterial infection and help reduce the pain. These products are available in the pharmacy so if you are uncertain about which one suits you, speak to your pharmacist. It is also recommended you see your doctor if these creams haven’t helped or your cold sore lasts more than 14 days.
Whether it be the common cold, seasonal flu or dry skin, there is always something you can do to help you through the winter storm. Make sure this winter, you know how to best look after and shield yourself against winter ailments, and keep on smiling all winter long.
About the author
Debby is a pharmacist working with Pharmacy 4 Less and Your Chemist Shop. Debby is passionate about not only health but also education. Putting the two together, writing health articles is just another way to promote health awareness in the community. A visual learner herself, she enjoys transforming information into more creative visual forms which she hopes will reach out to people. In her spare time, Debby enjoys most in spending time with family and friends, and also spending time outdoors, such as fishing with her husband.