Tips for staying healthy during the winter season

Avoid sudden temperature changes, pay special attention to our hygiene and layering clothes are some of the tips that experts from the DKV Healthy Living Institute offer us so that we'll be prepared to successfully face the coldest season of the year

With the arrival of the cold weather, we are more likely to get colds or the flu, feel depressed or even gain weight. That's why the DKV Healthy Living Institute offers a number of practical prevention tips aimed at minimising the effects caused by the winter season. Avoid sudden temperature changes, pay special attention to our hygiene and layering clothes are some of the guidelines that experts recommend for having a healthy winter:
  • Avoid sudden changes in temperature and adapt your clothing. At this time of year, it's common to go from hot to cold when going in and out of places. We should take special care and adapt our clothing to where we are. It's smart to layer your clothing, wearing several items that will keep us dry and warm, plus this will allow us to put on and take off layers depending on the temperature of where we are. Also keep in mind that the house should be around 22 degrees and that it's advisable to periodically air out the rooms.
  • Pay special attention to your hygiene habits. The viruses that cause colds can spread from infected people to others through the air and close personal contact via hands and face-to-face greetings. That's why it's important to wash your hands often to avoid infection, cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing (but not your with you hand!) and avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose, because that's how viruses on the hands are spread.
  • Watch your diet. At this time of year, our body needs more calories to maintain body heat. In the winter, we have seasonal foods that are high in calories, like pulses, that help us to store energy reserves. But we mustn't forget to eat fresh fruit and vegetables every day and to maintain a balanced diet.
  • Protect yourself from the sun in winter, too, and moisturise your skin. You must protect your skin from UVA rays whatever the season, even in cold and cloudy months. Sunlight can burn your skin during this time of year. This is true especially for people involved in outdoor winter sports in reflective areas, like snow. This is why it's necessary to apply sunscreen to the areas of your skin not covered by clothing. We also recommend hydrating, protecting and nourishing the skin to prevent flaking, cracks, tightness and pruritus (itchy skin).
  • Take care of your mood. During the winter, the days are shorter, it gets dark earlier and it's cold. This causes many people to feel "blue", and some are even diagnosed with the so-called Seasonal Affective Disorder or Winter Depression. This is why it's so important to stay positive, do activities outdoors in daylight hours and rest and sleep as needed (not less) in a pleasant environment at the proper temperature.
  • Pay attention to the protection of your home. Winter is the season where most fires occur in the home, plus there is more risk of carbon monoxide poisoning due to the use of heaters and boilers to heat the room. With this in mind, we recommend paying special attention to gas, to hobs, fireplaces and heaters. Be careful even when installing your Christmas tree, using officially approved lights and turning them off when you leave home or go to sleep.
  • Play sport in the winter, too. Even though it's harder to get out and exercise in the winter, we shouldn't give up on doing sport during the season. Besides the known benefits for our health, its help us to warm up and to fight the cold.
We must be especially careful with babies, older people and bedridden patients. Infants are more sensitive to temperature changes because their thermoregulatory mechanism – which adapts the body temperature to changes in the environment – hasn't matured and doesn't yet work well. With age, this mechanism is altered, so people who are 75+ are more vulnerable to cold and heat. In bedridden patients, the lack of mobility and physical exercise prevents muscles from producing heat and, in many cases, there are economic limitations on continuously heating the room. Some bedridden elderly and diabetic patients can have problems of heat sensitivity in the legs; for these people, electric blankets and hot water bottles are dangers.