Medics share tips to protect yourself from falling sick due to rapid weather changes

Rapid shifts in temperature and humidity can trigger respiratory issues such as asthma, allergies and sinusitis. Image for representational purpose only. Photo Courtesy: istock

Mumbai has started witnessing light showers marking the onset of the much-awaited monsoon. A transition from summer to monsoon, though a great relief from the city’s humidity, brings with itself health concerns like viral fever, common cold and flu, respiratory issues, etc. Falling sick from sudden weather changes is not a new occurrence and happens whenever climatic and environmental changes take place. Mid-day Online spoke to health experts who share preventive tips to protect yourself from sudden weather changes.

“Extreme fluctuations in the weather can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections,” says Dr Murarji Ghadge, ENT consultant surgeon, sleep specialist at Ruby Hall clinic. “Sudden weather changes expose humans to pathogens (micro-organisms that cause diseases) making them vulnerable to diseases.”

This happens because certain weather conditions create a favourable environment for pathogens to thrive. For instance, Ghadge says, “cold weather and low humidity can lead to drier nasal passages, making it easier for viruses to enter the respiratory system. Similarly, stagnant air during hot and humid weather can contribute to the concentration of pollutants and allergens, exacerbating respiratory issues.”

A drop in air quality or the formation of smog too, can negatively impact your health. This can lead to respiratory irritation and exacerbate existing respiratory conditions, making individuals more susceptible to respiratory infections. Additionally, a sudden change in weather can also disrupt daily routines, cause stress and impact sleep patterns which leads to weakened immune system and increases the likelihood of falling ill.

Ghadge points out that weather alone does not cause illnesses directly. Rather, it can create conditions that make individuals more vulnerable to infections and exacerbate pre-existing health conditions. “Practicing good hygiene, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and taking appropriate precautions during weather transitions can help reduce the risk of falling sick.” Sudden weather changes can cause few common health issues that must be monitored. These include:

Respiratory issues:

Rapid shifts in temperature and humidity can trigger respiratory issues such as asthma, allergies and sinusitis. Cold weather, in particular, can lead to the constriction of airways and cause breathing difficulties.

Seasonal infections:

Weather fluctuations can increase the risk of viral and bacterial infections. For example, when temperatures drop suddenly, people tend to spend more time indoors, leading to closer contact and a higher chance of spreading illnesses like the flu and common cold.

Migraines and headaches:

Sudden weather changes can also trigger migraines and headaches in susceptible individuals. The exact mechanisms behind these associations are not fully understood, but many people report an increase in headache symptoms during weather transitions.

Joint and muscle pain:

Cold and damp weather can exacerbate symptoms in people with arthritis and other chronic pain conditions. The decrease in temperature may cause joint stiffness and increased discomfort. Similarly, sudden weather changes can contribute to muscle spasms and aches.

Cardiovascular issues:

Extreme temperature variations can impact the cardiovascular system, potentially leading to heart-related problems. Cold weather can increase blood pressure and heart rate, constrict blood vessels and pose a higher risk for heart attacks and strokes in vulnerable individuals.

Dehydration and heat-related illnesses:

Sudden hot weather can result in dehydration and heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heatstroke. When temperatures rise abruptly, people may not find it easy to adapt to the heat, increasing the risk of these conditions.

Skin problems:

Changes in temperature and humidity can affect the skin’s moisture balance, leading to dryness, itching and irritation. Cold weather can cause chapped lips, dryness and flakiness, while sudden increases in humidity can contribute to excessive sweating and fungal infections on the skin.

It’s important to note that the specific health issues people face during sudden weather changes can vary depending on individual factors such as age, pre-existing conditions and overall health. If you experience persistent or severe symptoms related to weather changes, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for appropriate advice and treatment.

To prevent from falling sick during sudden weather changes, Ghadge shares a list of tips:

Dress appropriately:

Wear suitable clothing to adapt to the changing weather. Layer your clothing to adjust to temperature fluctuations and protect yourself from cold or hot conditions. In colder weather, wear warm and insulated clothing, while in hot weather opt for lightweight and breathable fabrics.

Stay hygienic:

Practice regular handwashing with soap and water, especially before eating, after using the restroom and after being in public places. Proper hygiene helps prevent the spread of germs and reduces the risk of infections.

Boost immunity:

Maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep and stress management. These factors can support a strong immune system, making you less susceptible to infections.

Practice respiratory etiquette:

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets. Dispose of used tissues properly and wash your hands afterward.

Maintain clean indoor environment:

Keep your living and working spaces clean and well-ventilated. Clean surfaces regularly, including doorknobs, light switches and electronic devices, to minimize the spread of germs.

Monitor allergies:

If you have allergies, stay informed about the local pollen count and take appropriate measures. Keep windows closed during high pollen periods and consider using air purifiers or allergy medications as recommended by a healthcare professional.

Be mindful of temperature changes:

Gradually acclimate your body to temperature changes. For example, if the weather suddenly becomes significantly colder, avoid prolonged exposure to cold environments and dress appropriately to keep warm.

Stay informed:

Keep an eye on weather forecasts and be prepared for sudden weather changes. Stay informed about any health advisories or warnings issued by local authorities and follow their recommendations.

Seek medical advice:

If you have specific health concerns or pre-existing conditions that may be affected by weather changes, consult with your healthcare provider. They can provide personalized advice and recommend appropriate preventive measures.

While these precautions do play a key role in preventing sickness, the food we choose to consume during weather changes also has a huge impact on our health. Dr Sneha Luhera, clinical dietician says, “Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods in diet will help prevent sickness.”

Consuming foods that are rich in antioxidants and are anti-inflammatory boost immunity and protects you from falling sick. Luhera suggests including dark leafy greens, berries, salmon, sweet potatoes, almonds, walnuts and pistachios to boost your immunity during the change of season.

The dietician also urges to consume seasonal foods as they offer key health advantages. Always choose fresh foods to reap the most health benefits. Stock up on fruits and vegetables including plums, tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, watermelons, oranges, etc. Fruits like oranges and watermelon not only give us vital vitamins and minerals, but they also hydrate the body and internally cools it down, helping us combat the harmful effects of the rising heat.

Luhera shares a list of things you must do during weather transition.

Consume curd, nuts and seeds

It is a great probiotic for the gut microbiota and is rich in calcium, vitamin B2 and magnesium. You can also choose to consume yoghurt, buttermilk, fermented foods and paneer. Further, nuts and seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, walnut and almonds which are high in vitamins E and B6 as well as minerals like magnesium and zinc, will instantly increase immunity.

Use herbs and spices

Consuming herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, and oregano in your meals will fight off diseases. They not only add flavour but also possess antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water is extremely important. Drink at least eight to nine glasses of water each day to stay hydrated. Choose fresh fruit juices, coconut water, lime water, sugarcane juices over the packed aerated soft drinks.

Stay active

Incorporating 30-45 minutes of exercise in day will help upper respiratory tract fight off diseases that are common during the changing weather.

Consume a balanced diet

During weather changes, focus on a well-rounded diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. This provides essential nutrients to support your immune system and overall health.

Limit the intake of processed foods

Try to minimize the consumption of processed and highly refined foods, as they tend to be low in nutrients and may contribute to inflammation and weakened immune function. Opt for whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible.

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