Low humidity due to cold weather and artificial heating can dry out your nasal passages, resulting in sinus congestion, although allergens may also be to blame.
“Spending lots of time inside puts you in close proximity to irritants such as mould, dust mites and animal hair,” naturopath Karina Francois explains.
Dr Ballingall says it’s important to take steps to reduce pesky home allergens and limit nasal irritation.
“Use a humidifier or vaporiser to add moisture to the air, drink lots of fluids, wash your hands regularly and keep surfaces clean,” she advises.
Nurture Your Skin
Everyone needs to protect their skin from drying out in winter, but those of us with ongoing conditions, such as dermatitis, should take extra precautions.
“People forget about their skin health, but it’s your largest organ so we need to look after it,” Dr Ballingall says.
“Dry skin not only cracks and can be more prone to infection, but the irritation can also trigger psoriasis and eczema, which further increases your chances of developing fungal infections.”
Keeping your skin comfortable and healthy requires careful year-round maintenance, but you can usually make a significant difference by starting a head-to-toe skin-health action plan at any time.
“Avoid alcohol-based wipes and perfumed soaps. Instead, use soap-free cleansers, limit your shower time and use moisturiser immediately afterwards,” Dr Ballingall adds.
And before heading outdoors, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 – even in winter UV levels in Australia can be high enough to cause sunburn, especially in the alpine areas.
Tame Tummy Bugs
What’s often called “tummy flu” isn’t really influenza but gastroenteritis, an illness of the stomach caused by bacteria or a virus.
The symptoms depend on its cause but usually include fever, nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting.
“It peaks in winter, again due to close contact with others, but it can also be caused by food allergies, parasites and side effects of medications,” Dr Ballingall explains.
“Stomach flu can be prevented by washing hands, avoiding contact with infected people and taking care to keep kitchens and bathrooms extra clean.”
Soothe Dry Eyes
While you may not be able to avoid dry eyes altogether during the peak months for low humidity, keeping hydrated can ease the symptoms.
“Drinking more water can help to lubricate your eyes. But you can also try using a humidifier to offset dry air in your home,” Dr Ballingall suggests.
For a cheaper alternative, leave the bathroom extractor fan off next time you have a steamy shower.
Other ways to ease the symptoms include wearing sunglasses, using eye drops and preventing hot air from car heaters and hairdryers blowing directly on to your face.
Keep Asthma Under Control
Dr Ballingall tells us colds and flu can hit extra hard if you suffer from any type of asthma.
“Arrange to see your doctor to have your lungs checked and find out whether you need to make any changes to your regular asthma medicines,” she says.
“People often don’t realise they can increase their doses to help manage severe flare-ups during winter.”
Also ask your doctor to develop or update your asthma action plan, so you’ll know what to do in the event of an emergency.
Take Your Fight-Amins
Even if you eat a healthy, balanced diet for the most part, there may be times when you could benefit from taking a dietary supplement. Naturally, winter is top of that list.
“Research shows that increasing your intake of vitamin D through supplements can help reduce the duration and severity of colds and flu,” Karina says.
Other supplements that may assist in reducing inflammation and boosting immune function include fish oil and vitamins A, B, C, E and K.
But don’t believe all the hype.
“While there is evidence that these micronutrients can play a role in strengthening your immune system, the proof is still limited,” Dr Ballingall says.
Additionally, many people swear by herbs such as echinacea, goldenseal and grapefruit seed extract to help them stay healthy in winter.
Take A Sick Day
Working when you’re unwell isn’t healthy for you – or anybody else! “Staying at home is important to avoid spreading disease to others and it gives your body time to rest and rejuvenate,” Karina says.
Just be sure to give yourself permission to take it easy and sip plenty of hot tea and honey between naps. Take a sick day!