So, I was shopping the other day and I saw Christmas cards and decor in my local supermarket. August was just a couple of weeks ago and here we are alread;, the Christmas marketers are hot on it again. I am sure it's earlier every year!.
Anyway, Christmas for this side of the world means one thing - WINTER. That dreaded season where the mornings are dark, the evenings are just as dark and that means summer has gone for another year and winter is here.
Pro's to this....seasonal shopping trips for new hats, scarves, coats, and big warm jumpers. Total justification for spending money on new clothes here!
For most of us winter also means seasonal bouts of flu, colds and generally having our immune systems challenged by the forces of nature. For those of us who are HIV+ the battle is even greater.
Immune system already compromised, we definitely need to take extra care of ourselves. Last winter I was quite lucky and didn't fall ill bar the old cold. To be fair, we didn't exactly have a cold and snowy winter in London so that needs to be factored into a flu free winter last year, but this give me more of a reason to think we are definitely due one for 2014.
So I thought (and I am no expert/qualified doctor but.just going on knowledge) I'd pass on some probably already known advice. But it is nice to have a reminder, right?
. The flu vaccine: This is recommended especially if you are HIV positive. I can’t stress this enough! I know so many people who don’t bother with this and then wonder why on earth they get sick so easily. Ever since I started having it years ago I have had pretty good winters.
. HIV screening and CD4 check: If you don’t know your status or if you are uncertain of your CD4 count (white blood cells responsible for your immune system), get it done before the coming winter so you can plan before the flu season kicks in.
. Your immune system: Keep your immune system in top notch condition. Make sure your grocery/shopping bag is full of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A, C and E (think carrots, oranges, grapefruits and dark leafy vegetables) to ensure your body has a steady flow of ammunition to fight infection. If you are HIV positive remember that so-called vitamins and other supplements are not really "immune boosters" - the only proven therapy that does is anti-retroviral medication. It is, however, useful to try and maintain a balanced diet with vitamin supplements if there is evidence of dietary deficiency.
. TB screening: If you have a chronic cough and show signs of weight loss, get screened for TB (tuberculosis).
. Cough etiquette – seriously, it is the little things that help. Too many people coughing and not covering their mouths and/or grabbing some antibacterial hand gel, etc after.
. TB sufferers: should have proper ventilation in a household where someone has TB.
. Grab a shut eye: Haven’t you wondered why your eyes refuse to open during winter? Due to longer nights, you tend to sleep more. Don’t fret about it and enjoy the extra napping time that you get, guilt-free! (I love daytime naps when I can squeeze them in too).
. Get outdoors: Even though it may be tempting to sit inside the warmth of your house, it’s important that you get some sunshine whenever possible. It’s possible to get depressed if you don’t get enough sunshine. In medical lingo, it’s known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). So step out and soak up the rays when you can.
. Watch what you eat and drink: Winters are also a time when many people buy themselves a one-way ticket to weight gain by reaching for deep fried snacks and hot beverages. It’s important to remember cream based soups and cream laden caffeine drinks aren’t healthy.
. Stay active: Lethargy affects everyone during the winter. Getting out into the cold weather for your jog or cycling may seem impossible but try and squeeze in a little bit of activity into your schedule. Remember to warm up as your muscles are tighter during winter making them more prone to injury. Personally I love a good run in the winter though I won’t be able to start this until January due to a recent broken ankle injury!
. Keep infections from spreading: Wash your hands regularly. This is a health tip for all seasons, but it’s doubly true during winter when infections and viruses seem to be at their worst.
. Stay warm: Cover up if you are feeling cold. Don’t wait till your fingers have frozen or your feet have numbed. Wear socks, gloves, scarves, anything to make sure your body is comfortable.
. Show your skin some TLC: Your skin probably is the worst affected during winters. Lack of moisture in the air and in your body leaves it dry and flaky. Show it some love and affection, use a deep nourishing cream to ensure your skin stays healthy.
. Be heart healthy: Winter is notoriously associated with a rise in heart attacks. The reason for this is still much debated, but the fact remains. So if you are a heart patient, watch what you eat, exercise moderately and head to a hospital if you feel some discomfort. Remember also, you don’t need to be 50+ to qualify for a heart attack. We are all vulnerable.
Llke I said I am no expert, but from someone who used to get really ill in winter and have in the last few years taken extra care of myself, that shows I must be doing something correct, right?
Now, lets go boil that kettle for a cup of tea……