Thursday, November 15, 2007

Staying Healthy This Winter

Both you and the one you care for can stay healthy this winter with some care attention. Consider the following recommendations:

1. Get your flu shot. The virus that causes the flu changes each year. You may also want to ask your doctor about the pneumonia vaccine.

2. If you or your loved one have asthma, breathing in cold air can cause an asthma attack. To lower this risk, wear a scarf over your mouth to warm the air before you breath it. If you do develop a persistent cough or a fever over 100, call your doctor.

3. Cold weather is hard on arthritis sufferers. If you or your loved one have arthritis in your hands, keep them as warm as possible by wearing mittens or gloves, even if you plan to go out for a short walk. Keep them moving to reduce stiffness!

4. If you or your loved one have heart disease or high blood pressure, do not carry heavy packages, shovel snow or stay outside too long. The extra layers of clothes you need in the cold weather also make your heart work harder. However, exercise is still important during the winter months, so just pace yourself and limit exposure in the cold weather to short periods.

5. Be extra careful of icy sidewalks and streets. Be sure to wear shoes or boots that have rubber treads and do walk slowly. As we age, some of us are at higher risk for fractures, if we have osteoporosis and we fall. Check with your nurse or doctor about your risk of osteoporosis.

6. Be sure to eat well. Food provides the body with energy (from carbohydrates) and heat. Be sure your diet also contains protein daily to prevent your muscles from deteriorating. This will keep you stronger and warmer during the winter months. There are many ways to increase the protein in your diet at low cost. One way is to add non-fat dry milk to hot chocolate mix instead of water. Before you change your diet, talk to your doctor first.

7. You should also drink plenty of water and other beverages to keep your protective layers of skin intact and moist. It is a good idea to eat foods with water in them like soup, fruits and vegetables. Review your dietary restrictions with a nutritionist, your nurse or your doctor.

8. Because the winter air is dry, it can cause nosebleeds. If you have radiators in your home, you can increase the moisture in the air by placing a loaf pan on the radiator filled with clean water daily. Also, a humidifier can help, but be sure to clean it regularly.

9. If you live in a house with a hot-water heater, set the temperature on the hot-water heater to 120 degrees or lower. As people age, their sense of touch declines. The chance of scalding from hot water increases. If you cannot control the hot-water heater, always turn the hot water on last and off first, especially in the shower.

10. To help prevent frostbite when the temperature drops below zero, keep your skin covered and dry. If you think you may be getting frostbite, go indoors immediately. Warm the affected skin. DO NOT RUB to avoid damaging skin tissue. If you can, use warm water (never hot). If the affected skin still doesn't feel better, call your doctor.