Suffering from these winter ailments?

Has your health taken a knock this winter? Here’s what to do about the most common cold-weather niggles.

20 August 2014
by Cindy Tilney

Problem: Sore throat

Solution: Sore throats are often the sign of a cold or flu virus setting in, but it’s sometimes possible to stop these nasties in their tracks. Gargling with an antiseptic and disinfectant solution such as Andolex or Corsodyl can help to squash cold and flu bugs, says Clicks pharmacist, Philip Albert. Gargling with Disprin or Corenza C can also be helpful, as the aspirin in these medications has a soothing effect on the throat, he adds. It’s also a good idea to carry some anti-bacterial gel in your handbag and use regularly to avoid germs spreading – that way you might avoid getting the sore throat in the first place.

Problem: Dry skin

Solution: Bitterly cold winter air strips the skin of its moisture, leaving it dry and flaky. Likewise, extremely hot water saps it of elasticity, so while it might be tempting to turn up the heat to steaming when showering or bathing in winter, you won’t be doing your skin any favours. Instead, have a warm bath or shower and apply a rich body lotion while your skin is still damp – this will trap the moisture inside and keep your skin soft and supple. Albert recommends using aqueous cream or a lotion containing urea, such as Epimax Plus, for best results. More serious skin issues, such as eczema or psoriasis, require prescription medications. 

Problem: Chapped lips

Solution: Like the rest of your skin, the lips can take a beating in harsh winter weather. Some lip balms can do more harm than good, to avoid developing dry, cracked lips, be sure to choose a high quality product such as Blistex Daily Conditioning Treatment (DCT), available at Clicks.

Problem: Cold sores

Solution: Colds sores tend to pop up more frequently in extreme weather – both intense heat and cold. Exposure to chilly winter air is perceived by the body as a "traumatic" event in health terms, and increases vulnerability to an outbreak of cold sores. To shorten the life span of a cold sore, the trick is to catch it early – so stay tuned to any signs that might signal a reactivation of the virus such as sensitivity or tingling on or around the lips. Usually an anti-viral cream (available over the counter at any Clicks pharmacy) applied five times a day to the affected area is enough to clear it up fairly quickly, says Albert, but for severe cases you may need to take prescription systemic tablets in addition to external treatment. 

Problem: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Solution: If your mood tends to dip a little in the cold winter months, you may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – more commonly known simply as the winter blues. Some people have been found to respond favourably to vitamin D3 or melatonin supplements, although more research is needed to establish the efficacy of these treatments. Exercise however is proven to lift spirits, so try to do some form of physical activity every day, outdoors if possible. If your feelings of sadness persist, speak to your GP about a way forward.