As summer gives way to fall, we’re met with colorful leaves, crisp air, and pumpkin spice-flavored everything. But harvest and holidays aside, the season’s cooler temps, indoor gatherings, and shorter days also instigate unwanted autumn ailments. Below, we discuss common fall health concerns, and what you can do to prepare for and prevent illness.
Cold, dry weather makes it easier for airborne viruses, such as those behind cold and flu, to spread. And while more research is needed, emerging data suggests that cold and dry conditions may also facilitate the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Many viruses have a gel-like coating made of fats and oils called lipids. In cold weather, this lipid coating hardens, protecting the virus and allowing it to survive longer in the air, and spread more easily. To make matters worse, cold weather can dry out nasal passages, leaving sinuses vulnerable to infection. Additional factors such as spending more time indoors in close quarters and lack of sunlight also increase the risk of illness.
To prevent airborne illness, continue following the public health advice you’ve learned during the pandemic: Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds; Avoid contact with people who have active symptoms of disease; Stay home when you’re sick; Wear a mask in public settings; Don’t touch your face.
Vaccines can also reduce your chances of getting some airborne diseases. The CDC urges everyone 6 months and older to get annual flu shot. This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you or your child suffers from asthma, you may notice that symptoms worsen in the fall and winter. Cold, dry air can irritate and inflame airways, increasing the likelihood of having an asthma attack. Cold air can also trigger your body to produce histamines, which in turn cause wheezing and other asthma symptoms. Try to limit time outdoors when the temps drop. And when you do go outside, wear a mask or scarf over your face to warm the air you breathe in. Talk to your doctor to come up with a plan to manage your condition through the cold weather months. If you need asthma advice, acute treatment, or medication refills, our urgent care center is here for you.
Cold weather can exacerbate joint pain and stiffness, and lead to arthritis flares. A flare is a period of increased disease activity or worsening symptoms – a time when the medications you normally rely on to control your disease don’t seem to work. A cold front or rain storm may cause a drop in barometric pressure, which in turn, causes your joints to expand.
To prevent aches and pains this fall, make sure to dress warmly. Pay special attention to your head, hands, and feet, as the majority of heat loss occurs from the body’s extremities. It’s also important to stay active. Exercise is a valuable tool in arthritis relief, as it increases strength, improves flexibility, and reduces joint pain. Plan indoor exercise routines that are easy to stick to. If you need advice or help managing symptoms of an arthritis flare, our friendly medical team is here for you.