Valley Pros Reveal Their Top Tips for Winter Health

Valley Pros Reveal Their Top Tips for Winter Health

Valley healthcare professionals are sharing some of their best advice for feeling better, staying healthier, and keeping positive when the winter environment makes those things more challenging. From preventive health suggestions, to ideas for better sleep, keeping dry skin away, improving your mood and keeping diabetes medications effective in cold weather, check out how you can put their practical recommendations to use in your life today.

Remember Immunizations, Good Hygiene, Physical Activity and Helmets
From Kari Tanta, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Manager Children’s Therapy

  • Get yourself and your child vaccinated for the flu!
  • Teach your children good hand hygiene and how to sneeze and cough into their elbows.
  • When going out, bring your own toys with you rather than allowing your child to play with communal toys such as in a waiting room.
  • Keep your child physically active and try to get outside every day.
  • Help your child play safely by requiring helmets for all outside activities—this includes use of helmets when participating in sledding and skiing activities.

Keep Wintertime’s Colder and Shorter Days from Disrupting Your Sleep and Waking Cycle
From pulmonologist Suzanne Krell, MD, Pulmonary & Sleep Disorder Clinic

  • Seek out sunlight (or any light).
    • We can feel more sluggish and tired during the winter because our melatonin levels are higher. In winter, we are often exposed to less daylight causing higher melatonin levels during the day, with levels rising earlier in the evening. Sunlight (or any light) can help counteract this melatonin effect.
    • Open your curtains as soon as you wake up to let in the light!
  • Regular exercise will also improve energy levels.
    • The combination of exercise and outdoor light exposure is even better, such as walking the dog in the morning or a quick walk over lunch break.
    • At bedtime, it’s o.k. to cuddle up with a book for a short period before lights-out, but avoid the temptation to watch TV or peruse a phone or computer screen for hours in bed.
  • Stay warm at night, but not too warm.
    • For most people, a temperature between 60-67°F is optimal.
    • Multiple, thin layers of blankets and sleepwear are better than heavy blankets and help prevent accidental overheating. 
  • Practice good sleep habits.
    • Any time of year, it’s essential to keep a regular sleep schedule, avoid naps, and keep away from too much caffeine or alcohol.

Ways to Avoid Winter Itch—How to Keep Your Skin from Getting Too Dry
From the physician team at the Dermatology Clinic

  • Make Sure Soap is Working for You, Not Against You
    • Stay away from soaps that strip your skin of the oils that keep it healthy and moist. Soaps that are overly drying to the skin include: Dial, Irish Spring, Lever 2000, Ivory, and liquid body washes.
    • Use soaps that are less drying: Dove Sensitive Skin Bar, Vanicreambar, Aveeno moisturizing bar.
    • For very dry skin, limit the use of soap (even the less-drying kinds of soap). Only use soap to wash your face, hands, feet, underarms and groin. Do not use soap all over the body. The other areas can be easily cleaned with water alone.
    • Do not use a loofah or rough washcloth to clean your skin. Use your hands or a gentle cloth.
  • Keep the Moist In Your Skin with a Good Moisturizer
    • While lotion companies make it seem like lotion, especially their lotion, adds moisture to the skin—this is not true. The actual function of moisturizer is to prevent evaporation, or water leaving the skin. For this reason, the most effective moisturizers are thick and greasy.
      • The best body moisturizer is an over-the-counter petroleum jelly, like Vaseline.
      • If you do not like Vaseline because of the texture, here are some alternatives: Aveeno Cracked Skin Relief CICA Balm; Aveeno Eczema Therapy Itch Relief Balm; CeraVe Moisturizing Cream; CeraVe Healing Ointment—buy it in the jar and not the tube—it’s too hard to squeeze out of the tube.
      • For sensitive skin, avoid Aquaphor, as it contains lanolin. This can cause allergies with long-term use.

Checklist for Improving Mood and Energy, and Reducing Stress
From psychiatrist Jennifer Braden, MD, MPH, Valley Primary Care Behavioral Health Integration Program, Psychiatry & Counseling Clinic

  • Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise reduces stress hormones and stimulates production of endorphins, which together help improve mood and reduce stress.   
  • Activity: Schedule one enjoyable activity into each day (can be big or small, such as reading a book or baking cookies).  
  • Meaningful social interactions: Connect regularly with supportive people in your life.    
  • Adopt good sleep habits: Establish a relaxing routine before bedtime, have a regular schedule for going to bed and waking up, allow yourself sufficient time for sleep at night, and avoid excessive napping during the day.  
  • Consider relaxation exercises and techniques to help relieve stress. Ten relaxation techniques you can try
  • Meditation: There is some evidence that regular practice of mindfulness meditation can help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.  
  • Eat right: A balanced and healthy diet helps keep your body healthy.   
  • Light therapy: Sitting in front of a special fluorescent light box of 10,000 Lux intensity for 30 minutes each morning has been shown to be helpful for seasonal depression. (However, if you have bipolar disorder, consult with your doctor first.) 
  • Avoid drugs of abuse and excessive alcohol or marijuana use.   

Keep Your Diabetes Medications and Supplies from Being Affected by Cold Weather
From endocrinologist Theresa Tran, MD, Diabetes, Thyroid & Endocrinology Clinic

If you’re out and about in cold weather and you take insulin or non-insulin injectable medication (e.g., Victoza, Ozempic or Trulicity), take extra precautions. These liquids can freeze and should not be used if they become frozen. To maintain a safety margin, you should keep these medications above 36°F. Your diabetes equipment can be affected by cold temperature, as well.

  • Don’t leave insulin or non-insulin injectable medications in a cold car.
  • Keep your vials or pens with you in an insulated case.
  • If you use an insulin pump, keep the insulin cartridge close to your body and wear an extra layer of clothing over it.
  • Continuous glucose monitors, glucometers, test strips, and control solution can be affected by the cold. Take care to keep them at room temperature. Most glucometers are meant to operate above 50°F.

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