It’s common knowledge that people get sick more often in the wintertime. When the temperature drops, your body struggles to fight off germs, increasing your risk of developing the common cold, flu, and even COVID-19.
Yet, spending time outside without the proper cold-weather attire isn’t the only way winter makes you sick. Staying inside all season can produce ideal conditions for bodily aches and pains.
Here’s how being inside can make you sick in the winter, along with some ways to stay healthy until spring.
Can Winter Make You Sick?
If you thought staying inside from December to March was the best way to prevent getting sick in the winter, you’re in for a rude awakening. Sadly, it’s possible to catch a cold even while cozying up next to a fireplace.
A wood-burning fireplace emits fine particulate matter, which is hazardous for your lungs. Smoke inhalation can induce asthma attacks and bronchitis and may also exacerbate heart and lung disease in older adults. If you’re wondering how this happens, prior studies have shown that 70% of the smoke released through the flue reenters your home.
Likewise, a cold house causes just as many health risks. Recent medical studies reveal that when the temperature drops by 9°F in your nose, it can kill 50% of the good bacteria needed to fight viruses.
Dry conditions also cause uncomfortable sinus irritation, such as sore throat, sinus pressure, headaches, and nosebleeds. When there’s less moisture in your sinus cavities, it can lead to nose, throat, and mouth inflammation.
Like you, critters will want to avoid the wintery elements and hunker down inside your home. Unfortunately, rodents may carry dangerous diseases that make you sick – this is especially common in older homes with several cracks and crevices.
Of course, being inside all winter affects your mental health, too. Approximately 10 million Americans experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) amid shorter days – accompanied by feelings of sadness, fatigue, and weight fluctuations.
5 Ways To Stay Healthy Indoors This Winter
Protecting your health in the winter is critical. You can avoid getting sick indoors by following these helpful tips.
1. Dress In Layers
Staying warm with multiple layers of clothing is the best way to avoid weakening your immune system.
Wearing long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, long pants, and socks will keep your body at a suitable temperature for maintaining good health.
2. Go For A Walk
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you must stay inside the whole time. Since you’ll wear layered clothes anyway, you might want to get outside to combat depression and anxiety.
Movement, such as taking a brisk walk, stimulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to improve your mood.
Studies show that spending 2.5 hours outside daily delivers a healthy dose of vitamin D and reduces your chances of developing long-term depression.
3. Seal Out Air Drafts
Seal your windows and doors to block cold air from entering your home. Weatherstripping improves your home’s energy efficiency, ensuring your HVAC system doesn’t have to run as hard to regulate your home’s temperature.
Additionally, sealing the cracks prevents rodents and bugs from coming inside. Less infestation equates to less disease risk.
4. Practice Good Hygiene
Flu season generally runs from October through May but peaks between December and February.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated 9–41 million flu cases from 2010 to 2020. Additionally, the researchers believe there were around 140,000–710,000 hospitalizations and 12,000–15,000 deaths annually for that same period.
Practice good hygiene to prevent getting the flu this winter, such as washing your hands regularly and wiping down surfaces with antibacterial solutions. You might also consider wearing your mask again to avoid spreading germs.
5. Eat Well
It’s not uncommon to gain weight during the holidays. With so many parties and delicious treats, who can resist?
Studies show that people gain an average of 0.4–1 kilogram (kg) of body weight in the winter, or the equivalent of about 1–2 pounds (lbs). Over 10 years, experts say this would amount to a 5–10 kg or 11–22 lb increase.
Avoid putting nutrition on the back burner this winter. Rather than indulging in buttery pastries and creamy comfort foods, eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Avoid Getting Sick This Winter
It’s possible to go the entire winter without getting a cold. When you prioritize your health and create the right conditions for your body, you’ll have a much easier time fighting off viruses and germs.
Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.