Weekly Checkup: Confronting the Cold

With the winter season comes shorter days, colder winds and a whole new assortment of health issues to go along with it such as dry skin, breathing problems and even depression.

Often times the cold weather might not be what causes illness, but it can be the way people live during the winter months that creates a health issue, said Susan Haney, director of Student Health Service.

“During the winter people spend more time inside, where germs can spread more freely. Infectious diseases spread more quickly when everyone’s staying inside in close quarters,” Haney said.

Wardrobe choice can also present a health problem, Haney said. She added that it is important to dress appropriately before doing any outdoor activities.

“When people work out they should do a lot of stretching beforehand and dress warmly,” she said, adding that it is especially important for people with asthma to be cautious in the cold weather to avoid breathing problems.

It is not only athletes who need to be concerned about their clothes during the winter. Haney said that during these months the temperature in buildings can sometimes be unpredictable, which means everyone needs to be prepared.

“It’s definitely a good idea to layer because you can’t predict how warm buildings will be inside,” she said.

Students also need to be thinking about the weather outside especially during rainy or snowy days.

“Being wet for too long in the cold isn’t good. If it gets icy it’s important to wear shoes that will provide protection from slipping and keep your feet warm,” she said.

The winter season doesn’t just present problems for the body, it can also present problems for the mind.

Seasonal affective disorder, or seasonal depression can flare-up during the winter, Haney said. With the sun setting earlier and people being exposed to less sunlight, some may find themselves feeling sad during this season, and don’t know why.

Seasonal affected disorders are more common in the winter, because it gets darker faster, and this can be a problem for those who really need light, Haney said. There are treatments for this and people can get help if they find themselves feeling a little depressed this season.

Some of the more obvious health concerns for the winter include the upcoming flu season and chapped lips.

“Skin and lips do get dryer in winter,” she said. “It’s important to use lots of moisturizing lotion and ChapStick.”

“Weekly check up” is a regular feature in the Life section. If you have a health topic you want to know more about, e-mail features@gwhatchet.com.

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