No Time to Get Sick: Why We Feel So Bad in Winter

By | July 20, 2021

WHEN FOR ALMOST SIX-A-YEAR, THE NUMBER OF SUNNY DAYS IS CLOSE TO ZERO, and outside the window there is something in between rain and snow, it is increasingly difficult to perceive winter as a time of miracles and joys. Even if you do not freeze and get a flu shot on time , the number of perfectly healthy people during this period is decreasing – for example, half of our editorial office now has a cold. It seems that during this period, from the endless drafts of frost and dampness, all diseases are aggravated. Is this really so, we figure it out together with experts: an expert of the Center for Molecular Diagnostics (CMD) of the Central Research Institute of Epidemiology of Rospotrebnadzor Mikhail Lebedev, chief physician of the clinic of integrative medicine “First Line. Health Care Resort ”Natalia Egorova and Candidate of Medical Sciences, allergist-immunologist Olga Zhogoleva.

Is it true that immunity decreases in winter?

Immunity is a very stable and complex system, so expressions like “his immunity has dropped” or “I have low immunity” usually do not correspond to reality. The human immune system has been forming for millennia: the body “learned” to survive in the face of attacks by millions of microorganisms and constant mutations of its own cells. The result of such “training” is the skill to recognize and destroy billions of foreign microorganisms or “broken” cells of one’s own body.

Therefore, neither microbes, nor hypovitaminosis can “reduce immunity” ( we are not talking about vitamin deficiency in modern cities). Doctor Natalya Egorova notes that talking about immunodeficiency is correct only when it is caused by serious disorders, such as HIV infection or leukemia, or is a consequence of repeated chemotherapy. The susceptibility to colds during the cold season is not associated with a decrease in the resources of the immune system. And, of course, the treatment of real immunodeficiency is always intensive substitution therapy; one intake of vitamin complexes and dietary supplements cannot solve such a problem.

Why do we catch cold all the time

Lack of fresh air and sunlight, unhealthy diet, frequent lack of sleep, stress, lack of exercise and cold, which are increasingly faced in winter, lead to the production of a large number of free radicals – oxidants with damaging effects. The latter are opposed by antioxidants – vitamins C, E, D and other beneficial trace elements such as beta-carotene, selenium, iron, zinc, manganese (for example, prophylactic intake of vitamin D can reduce the risk of colds). If these substances are not enough in the diet, the number of oxidants increases. As a result, the balance is disturbed, and while the body adapts to new conditions, its protective functions temporarily weaken and the risk of catching ARVI increases . These are just some of the reasons for the loss of energy, irritability and other manifestations of ill health in the autumn and winter period.

Allergologist-immunologist Olga Zhogoleva adds that the increase in the incidence of colds in the cold season is not associated with a deterioration in the body’s work or a strong increase in the number of viruses in the environment, but with a change in behavior: you have to spend more time indoors, in contact with people, often with closed windows. and the chance of getting infected and getting sick increases. Another provoking factor is dry air due to working batteries. Dryness increases the permeability of the nasal mucosa (moisture is a barrier from dangerous microorganisms, providing rapid transport of antibodies, immunoglobulins and peptides to the site of infection), which also makes it easier for viruses and bacteria to enter the body and multiply.

How to help yourself

Viruses can be called intracellular “parasites”. Their reproduction occurs inside the affected cells – in the case of ARVI, this is the epithelium of the upper respiratory tract. The source of infection is not cold air, but a sick person “exhaling” viruses into the environment. At the same time, expert Mikhail Lebedev notes that when the thermometer drops below fifteen degrees Celsius, the influenza virus becomes more resistant to the external environment – its shell turns into a dense viscous gel and it circulates in the air longer.

However, the widespread belief that the viruses that cause SARS begin to multiply actively in the colder months is not entirely true. The graph shows that, for example, rhinovirus and parainfluenza virus (PIV) multiply from March to November, adenovirus and metapneumovirus (MPV) – throughout the year, and only respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), coronavirus, influenza virus and adhering to them group A streptococcus (a bacterium that causes sore throat) is most active in winter.

In order not to catch an infection during the cold season, Olga Zhogoleva advises to ventilate the premises more often (at least three to four times a day) and humidify the air with a humidifier or a sink (the air humidity in the room should normally be 40-60%). Take short breaks during the working day and go outside, drink enough fluids and, if necessary, use a saline spray (also called “sea water” to improve sales) to moisturize the nasal mucosa. Hardening will also help “tune” the body against viruses. True, you should not immediately pour yourself over with ice water; you should start by pouring warm water, gradually lowering its temperature.

Why are chronic diseases exacerbated in cold weather?

Unfavorable weather conditions – frequent precipitation, cold wind, frost – force them to stay indoors longer and move less. Blood circulation deteriorates, congestion such as edema may occur . Diet often lacks fiber, which, together with lack of physical activity, can disrupt bowel function and lead to constipation. Free radical damage is often systemic, so a chronic infection, if present, can worsen – for example, in the mouth, intestines, or urinary tract.

In addition, cold outdoor air can increase the sensitivity of the teeth, contribute to the exacerbation of periodontitis and other inflammatory diseases, and seasonal changes in diet – a decrease in the amount of fruits, herbs, vegetables in the diet and an increase in sweets – contributes to the development of tooth decay. Complaints of joint pain are also not uncommon in the cold season. They are usually associated with an old injury or chronic condition, such as arthritis, which is reminiscent of itself when the atmospheric pressure drops before precipitation occurs .

Why Vitamin D is Needed

According to doctor Olga Zhogoleva, residents of the Northern Hemisphere are advised to take additional vitamin D, which is involved in calcium metabolism, as a prophylaxis for many diseases. The lack of a vitamin is attributed to a lack of sunlight in late autumn and winter – although even where there is plenty of sun, it is recommended to take vitamin D additionally , because the protection of the skin from burns and the risk of melanoma does not allow the amount of sunlight necessary for the formation of the vitamin to pass through.

At the same time, a violation of calcium metabolism often provokes problems with joints, caries, hair loss, dry skin and brittle nails. To replenish the reserves of vitamin D in the body, you need to more often include fatty fish (salmon, trout, herring), caviar, egg yolks, cheese, sour cream in the diet. If the vitamin deficiency is too large, it will not work to correct the situation with the help of dietary changes. In this case, you will need the help of a doctor.

Why wear a hat

Another factor that causes dry skin and hair loss is dry indoor air. True, these problems can be associated with iron deficiency , which is typical for women. In some cases, dry skin and hair loss is a symptom of endocrine disease; dryness can also be due to a lack of collagen or hyaluronic acid. In the first case, consultation of an endocrinologist is required, in the second – a cosmetologist.

Natalya Egorova notes that often unpleasant symptoms are caused by an imbalance in the water balance in the body ( bioimpedansometry – a study of body composition allows to identify this condition ) or by a shift in the acid-base balance towards an acidic environment (the problem can be diagnosed using the pH-meter of saliva). Intense hair loss can begin due to a change in temperature: cold contributes to the narrowing of the blood vessels of the scalp, as a result of which the hair follicles cease to receive nutrients in the required volume. Therefore, before going out into the street, you should put on a hat, as your grandmother bequeathed.

True, hats and hoods can also harm your hair, if you do not remove them for too long – the hair is at risk of becoming brittle. The problem is usually solved with mesotherapy (injections of drugs that stimulate hair growth), the use of medical cosmetics, or simply a new haircut. But headaches are not caused by a change in weather or precipitation, but, as a rule, are associated with sleep disturbances or stress. Therefore, sleeping for eight hours a day and mastering relaxation techniques is a sure way to fix the situation. For recurring, prolonged headaches, it is worth paying a visit to a therapist.

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