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Winter health myths

Thursday 13th November

With cold and flu season firmly underway, we’ve brought together eight common winter health myths, with the facts behind them, to help you separate fact from fiction this winter… 

Cold air will make you sick

False! Low temperatures alone won’t make you ill. In terms of infectious diseases like colds or the flu, it’s germs that make you sick, not simply the cold weather. However, it’s crucial not to underestimate the importance of staying warm in winter - particular for vulnerable people. Take a look at these tips from Age UK on preparing for winter.

Your allergies will go away in the winter

Incorrect. Whilst allergies like hayfever may be less prevalent in winter, many allergies, like pet or mould allergies, will still be there. In fact, some winter colds might actually be an allergy, although you just haven’t realised it. If you are unsure, check out this guidance on the symptoms of winter allergies.

You don’t need sunscreen in winter

This is a myth. A sunny day in winter still has harmful rays. If it has snowed, the sun can also be reflected off the white in the snow and actually increase the amount of rays we’re exposed to. That’s why skiers need to be extra careful and get the sunscreen out to protect themselves from harmful UV rays! Find out more here.  

You lose 50% of your body heat through your head

Not true. This idea is based on a flawed experiment from the 50s, which has now been disproved. Covering one part of the body versus another actually makes very little difference. Our heads, face and chest are more sensitive to heat changes, so it just feels like covering them up makes us warmer.

Drinking alcohol warms you up

Alcohol causes blood to rush to your skin which can make you think you feel warmer. However, when your blood is diverted to your skin, it’s going away from internal organs, meaning your core temperature has actually dropped. If you then venture out into the cold, because a lot of your heat is at the surface of your body, you can lose it very quickly. Take a look at this advice from Drink Aware for more information.

You shouldn’t exercise in the cold

This is a myth. Exercising in the cold can actually help you perform better and boost endorphin levels. You can also burn more calories if you exercise in the cold because your body expends more energy on staying warm. Find out more about the benefits.

Flu vaccines can give you the flu

Not true. Vaccines are made from inactive virus, so it cannot give you the flu. The reason this myth is so common, is that some people have side effects from the vaccine, including “flu-like” symptoms such as a mild fever. This is temporary however and is not contagious. Fnd out more about potential side effects

If I’ve missed the flu jab in October, it’s too late to take it.

False. Whilst it’s certainly best to take it as soon as it’s available, it’s definitely still worth having the vaccine later in winter. As you don’t know when flu may strike it’s best to have the jab as soon as possible. You can find more information here. 

This article has been brought to you using public health information freely available online (click on links in the article for more information). Benenden Health has not provided any direct medical advice within this article.  Please consult the sources provided if you would like additional information or support or contact your GP for further advice. 

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