18
October
2019
|
09:26 PM
America/New_York

Will Polar Coaster Mean Loops, Dips and Curves for Your Health?

4 MINUTE READ

Summary

Big swings in temperatures may be coming this winter, but does weather really impact your health?

By Thomas Vincz, Public Relations Manager


Buckle up, New Jersey. The Farmers’ Almanac is predicting a brutal winter with lots of snow and cold. But, before old man winter settles in, you can expect a few weeks on what’s become known as the “polar coaster” when temperatures can fluctuate wildly over the course of even a few hours.

Big shifts from cold to warm, snow to sun, may turn schedules upside down, but will they do the same to your health? While it’s true many of us tend to get sick during the winter months, it’s not always for the reasons people think. Here are five winter health myths that deserve to go into hibernation:

In fact, many experts believe that more people get sick during cold weather because the low temps force people indoors where it’s easier to exchange germs. Plus, cold weather can also dry out nasal passages, limiting the body’s ability to filter out infections.

 

1. Cold weather makes you sick.

As the temperatures plummet, bundling up will make you feel comfortably warm, but it won’t protect you from the viruses and germs that cause illnesses like the common cold.

In fact, many experts believe that more people get sick during cold weather because the low temps force people indoors where it’s easier to exchange germs. Plus, cold weather can also dry out nasal passages, limiting the body’s ability to filter out infections.

One interesting point: While the cold itself can’t make you sick, fluctuations in weather can make some health conditions worse. Recent research studies have shown that rapid shifts from cold to warmer weather and the accompanying air pressure drops can trigger migraines, exacerbate asthma symptoms, and worsen sleep apnea or arthritis.

2. Be wary of exercising outside.

Unless you have significant health issues, there’s no reason to let a cold day put a damper on your physical activity. But it’s a good idea to do some warm-up exercises inside for a few minutes and dress properly.

This leads us to another myth worth shattering: Your body heat doesn’t escape mainly through your head. Just like any other body part, your head will make you feel colder if it’s left unexposed. So make sure your workout routine includes a hat – and warm clothes for the rest of your body, too.

3. The flu shot can give you the flu.

The quick answer: not true. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), flu shots are either made with an inactive form of the virus or no flu virus at all. Both shots could cause minor side effects that can be mistaken for the flu, but you won’t get the actual flu.

The CDC recommends that everyone older than 6 months should get the flu shot every year with rare exceptions. Why? In 2018, there were more than 20,000 flu cases in New Jersey, and the flu was responsible for the death of five children in the state.

4. Sunscreen isn’t needed in the winter.

The sky may be overcast, but the sun is still there. Up to 80 percent of the sun's rays can penetrate clouds. Besides, UVA rays are still present in winter, possibly damaging the outer layers of skin and increasing the risk of skin cancer.

And if there’s snow on the ground, there’s even more reason to apply sunscreen of at least SPF 30. The snow reflects and intensifies the sunlight.

5. Don’t worry about allergies until the spring.

Scratchy throat, runny nose, watery eyes? It may not be a cold, but winter allergies. Spending more time indoors means more exposure to indoor allergens, such as airborne dust particles, pet dander and mold.

During winter, people with allergies may be more likely to have sinus symptoms. Otherwise, many winter allergy symptoms are the same as those from other seasonal allergies. And so are the ways to prevent or treat them, such as taking allergy medicines, using a humidifier, and keeping your household as dust-free as possible.

 

Finding the right care

When Horizon members do feel crummy this winter, consider contacting your primary care physician (PCP). This doctor knows your health history the best and can help treat many winter-related conditions, such as colds and allergies, or provide the flu vaccine. PCPs can also coordinate any type of specialized care for members. Find a Horizon in-network PCP here.

One more option for minor illnesses is telemedicine. Eligible members can use Horizon CareOnline℠ to talk with a U.S. board-certified, licensed doctor via video, chat or phone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week with no appointment needed. Find out more here.

If you have an injury that requires immediate care – perhaps you slipped on the front walk and hurt your ankle – then look at an urgent care center (UCC). Many times, this option is closer than an ER and can provide timely, cost-effective care. To find out if a UCC makes more sense than visiting an ER, check out this article.

No one can predict what winter will bring to New Jersey. But Horizon members can count on us to be with them every (slippery) step of the way.