Ask Dr. Nandi: Effects of dropping temperatures and early winter

Posted at 11:09 PM, Nov 11, 2019

In our Health Alert, winter hasn’t officially started but that hasn’t stopped the temperatures from dropping or the snow from falling. So how does an early winter affect our health? Our Chief Health Editor Dr. Partha Nandi has some answers.

It certainly is a winter wonderland outside and I know two young boys who absolutely love the fluffy white stuff – my sons. And when we head outdoors it’s really important that we’re dressed appropriately. Because changes in weather can cause a whole heap of issues. When it’s cold out, our blood vessels narrow which reduces blood flow. For some people, this may cause headaches or migraines, and in others, it raises their risk of a heart attack. Other annoying winter effects are dry itchy skin and eyes. Plus the darker days can trigger low energy and a blasé mood. Which makes you more interested in staying cozy warm in bed or on the couch. And not moving much is definitely not good for your health.

What about health conditions, can it makes some worse?

Absolutely. The cold temperatures can make breathing harder for those with asthma as airways can tighten, and breathing through the mouth can cause inflammation of the airways. And spending more time indoors can affect those with allergies who are exposed to more mold, mildew and pet dander than they would in the summer. And winter can be hard on the joints, with many arthritis suffers noticing more stiffness and pain.

What advice do you have to share?

1. Be careful when it comes to shoveling snow. Take it slow and easy so you don’t stress your heart.

2. Dress nice and warm, wearing a hat and gloves. This can help you avoid frostbite and hypothermia. But please be mindful of how much time you spend outside.

3. Also, be careful when walking as sidewalks can be icy. Wearing footwear with textured soles will help.

4. Lastly, get moving. Go sledding, take walks or hit the gym. If you still feel down and unmotivated, light therapy may help.