Breathing issues have increased considerably in the last decade and breathing easy is a luxury many Indians do not have. According to the 2019 National Health Profile, acute breathing issues accounted for 69% of the total cases of communicable diseases and caused 23% of related deaths in India. There are plenty of reasons for this, from bad health habits to air pollution. Breathing issues during winter are more common, which is why you need to take extra care this season.
The colder months often see a huge spike in respiratory diseases like the common cold, acute and chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, whooping cough and exacerbation of chronic asthma. Now, many experts also predict a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases.
It is vital, therefore, that you take extra care this winter. Here is a look at the link between winter and breathing issues, and how you can protect yourself this year.
Breathing Issues During Winter
Cold, dry air causes the upper airways in your respiratory system to contract, meaning you are not able to take in as much air as you normally would. Dr Craig Jones, an ENT specialist told Harvard Health Publishing: “Cold air can also disrupt the moisture layer that lines the lower airways in the lungs by causing it to evaporate faster than it can be replaced.” In short, breathing cold air is bad for your respiratory system.
That’s why it is vital to breathe through the no
ise. When you do so, the air is warmed and moisturized. “If someone is breathing mainly through the mouth , the air is no longer warmed and humidified by the nose, so the drying effect on the lower airway may contribute to respiratory symptoms,” Dr. Jones added.
It is not just cold air that can lead to breathing issues. As temperatures drop in winter, more people will spend time indoors. Closed environments are the perfect way to spread bacteria and viruses. That is why shopping centres, movie theatres and other indoor venues are still closed all over the world. Without adequate measures in place, these venues can become the hubs of increased transmission of the coronavirus, flu and other diseases.
Pollution Increases in Winter
Hotter temperatures in summer mean that warm air rises up, carrying with it any pollutants. It is a process called ‘vertical mixing’. In winter, as cold air is denser (or heavier), it does not rise. Instead, it is trapped at the surface of the Earth, and so are all the pollutants we release.
That means, in winter, we are more exposed to dangerous pollutants. The effects of this process called ‘winter inversion’ are more strongly felt at night when temperatures further drop. Geography also plays a role. In coastal areas like Mumbai, Chennai and Kochi, sea breeze and moisture help disperse pollutants, an effect not found in landlocked areas. That is why pollution levels are so high in Delhi in the winter.
Protect Yourself from Breathing Issues During Winter
In light of the global pandemic, it is more important than ever before that you protect yourself from breathing issues this winter. Taking medication will not always help. If you are feeling sick, stay in bed, and rest. That way you will give your body time to recover and prevent the sickness from spreading to others.
Here are some other key steps you should follow to avoid breathing issues in winter:
- Avoid Early Morning Walks: Since winter inversion is stronger at night, pollution levels are higher early in the morning. Go for walks/runs later in the day, when the sun is out.
- Avoid the Outdoors: Wherever possible, avoid being outdoors. Exposure to pollution levels will cause damage to your respiratory system.
- Don’t Mix with Others: It can be tempting to catch up with friends and family during Diwali and Christmas but avoid doing so. Especially indoors. You are only increasing everyone’s chances of contracting pneumonia, bronchitis, or COVID-19.
- Increase Moisture: If you can, get a humidifier and ensure that there is sufficient moisture inside the house. It will help you breathe easier.
- Always Cover-up: Ensure you are wearing adequate clothing, like a jacket and scarf when stepping outdoors. At home, it is a good idea to wear socks or chappals. Do not expose your ears, nose, and mouth when going out.
- Avoid Irritants: Your body is already struggling to breathe; it is a wise idea to avoid irritants like cigarettes and smoke from the fire.
- Eat and Drink Right: The best way to boost immunity is to replace junk and oily food with fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, ensure you drink plenty of warm water.
- Wash Your Hands: Always wash your hands with warm water and soap. Good handwashing hygiene is vital to prevent diseases.
In case you are feeling sick, consult a doctor at the earliest. The safest way to do so is through a quick teleconsultation. That way, you are not risking yourself. It is also a good idea to order medicines online to avoid stepping out. As a member of Onsurity, you get all these features and more at discounted prices.