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HealthInfo Canterbury

Winter wellness

Winter brings not only colder temperatures, but also an increase in coughs, colds, sore throats, tonsillitis, flu, and ear infections.

Cold weather can also cause serious health problems, particularly if you are older than 65, have a long-term (chronic) health condition, are disabled, or live in cold, damp, or over-crowded housing.

You can help to keep yourself and your family well this winter, by reading about common winter illnesses and learning what you can do to avoid or treat them.

Coughs and colds

winter-wellnessFind out about what causes colds and how to manage the symptoms. You can also read about acute sinusitis and whether you should give over-the-counter cold medicines to children.

Coughs are common in children, and more common during winter. Most coughs aren't anything to worry about, but any cough that lasts more than four weeks or happens with other problems (like a fever or difficulty breathing) need to be checked out by a health professional.

Croup is a viral illness that causes inflammation in a child's windpipe, and can cause a cough that often sounds like barking.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is very serious in children under 2 years, and in particular in babies under 3 months old.

Bronchiolitis is a chest condition that affects breathing in babies. It is caused by a virus that is very contagious and is more common during winter and spring.

Acute bronchitis is a chest infection that is usually caused by a virus and follows a cold or flu. It usually gets better on its own, within one to three weeks. It can sometimes lead to pneumonia, which can be more serious.

Most winter infections and illnesses don't need to be treated with antibiotics as antibiotics don't work against viruses.

Flu (influenza)

Influenza, usually called the flu, is very different to a cold, but people often confuse these two conditions. Both are caused by viruses, but if you have the flu, you become much more unwell. It is especially risky for elderly people, children, pregnant women, and those with long term health problems. Even younger healthy people can become seriously unwell with the flu. You can reduce your chance of getting the flu by getting a flu vaccination.

Fingers and toes

Cold weather can affect people's arms, legs, fingers and toes, causing chilblains and a disorder called Raynaud syndrome (which makes your fingers and toes change colour and become painful).

What you can do to stay well this winter

There are several things you can do to help keep yourself and your family well during the colder months.

If you live alone and become unwell over winter, don't be afraid to ask your neighbours for help.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated March 2018.


See also:

Keeping your home warm and dry

Page reference: 93622

Review key: HIWIN-93622