The temperature has dropped, trees have shed their leaves, and pristine, white snow is falling in hilly areas. Winter is here. As the weather grows colder, it is time to don your woolly hats, knitted scarves and fur-lined leather jackets and have some outdoor fun. Some of you might prefer to curl up in front of heaters under blankets and munch on peanuts and pistachios.

While many people welcome this cold for its cool crisp air, plethora of dry fruits and the chance of building snowmen in northern areas of Pakistan, winter season also brings host of problems like flu, cold, cough and terribly dry skin which can make life quite miserable and quite far from the picture perfect image of winter that one has in mind or sees in movies. Some children also fall ill frequently and miss important school work and other sports activities.

Many of these problems arise because of poor immune system and not keeping the body sufficiently warm when chilly winds blow. Let’s see how you can combat the harsh, abrasive elements of this season and enjoy it to its fullest:

Look cool, dress warm

Keep yourself warm with layers of clothing and warm undergarments. There is quite a large variety of winter clothes, like sweaters, jackets, coats, scarves, hats, earmuffs and gloves available in the markets in many funky colours to help you look cool while keeping you warm. Leggings, tights and thick socks are also a must while closed boots and shoes are best to keep the feet warm.

Remember to air your shoes regularly as germs thrive in closed, warm spaces. Wear hooded jackets or cover your head and ears with a woollen hat while going out. If the weather is especially cold, wear gloves to protect hands and cover your nose and mouth with a scarf to prevent cold air from rushing in the lungs.

Skin care

Winter can be very harsh on the skin, making it dry, itchy and quite rough. Children who suffer from asthma or a skin condition called eczema can be quite disturbed because dryness can worsen the symptoms.

To prevent dry skin in winter, always bath or wash your hands and face with lukewarm water. Remember boiling or hot water is for making tea and not for washing your skin.

Use a gentle soap or liquid soap in winter. Pat dry with a soft towel and apply a moisturising cream or lotion right afterwards all over the body to lock in moisture. Rather than going for sweet smells or fragrances, look for moisturisers that contain glycerine and use them frequently throughout the day.

Pay special attention to elbows, knees and feet as they can become very dry and feel ‘scratchy’. Keeping a healthy, hydrated skin in winter can demand a lot of work but it is worth the effort if you want fresh, glowing skin.

Lip care

Your lips can also suffer in the harsh weather by becoming chapped and dry. Regularly apply a good quality lip balm or petroleum jelly on your lips to prevent them from cracking and bleeding.

Humidify indoor air

Winter air lacks moisture and using gas/electric heaters dries the indoor air even more. Moisture also evaporates from your body, leaving your skin, nose and throat parched. Dry nasal passages can make you more vulnerable to colds, sinus infections and the flu. Use a humidifier to keep the air moist or keep water in metal pans near the heater so that the air retains some moisture.

Hair care

Winter air can make the scalp dry and cause more dandruff. Less frequent washing can also make the hair look dull and oily. For healthy and clean hair in winter, massage your hair with coconut oil, olive oil or almond oil, paying special attention to the hair roots and scalp. Wash thoroughly and dry hair completely before going outdoors.

Build your immune system

The best defence against winter health problems is a good immune system where your body fights diseases, leaving you to enjoy the season. Developing a good immune system depends upon a number of factors like your diet, daily habits and environment.

Washing hands frequently means that fewer germs enter your digestive system. Disposing off used tissues, and airing towels and linens ensures that you do not spread germs to other members of the family. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will make sure that your body has enough proteins, minerals and vitamins to ward off illnesses.

Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables like apples, oranges, spinach, carrots, radishes, cabbages, beetroot and dried fruits like almonds, walnuts, dried prunes, etc., which are packed with minerals and vitamins necessary for good health. Fish, soups, chicken broth and green or herbal tea with ginger and cinnamon also help in keeping you fit and healthy.

Beat the blues

Did you know that lack of sunshine can make you grumpy? In older people it can even cause depression. Take advantage of sunny days in winter and spend some time outdoors with your family because staying cooped up indoors can make you more vulnerable to health problems. Also, the vitamin D you gain from sunlight exposure bolsters your immune system.

Whether the weather is hot or cold, it is important to remember that our bodies need adequate amount of water to work and function properly so drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. In winter, health issues like constipation and urine problems become common because many children drink very little water. Dry fruits should also be consumed in moderation because too much of anything is always harmful.

Enjoy the cool weather without flu, colds and cough and have a great time!

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