Surviving Winter with an Autoimmune Disease
A few tips and tricks for staying well when the weather gets colder
As the cold season approaches, many people with perfectly functioning immune systems only have to worry about how many layers they should wear when they leave the house. But, people with autoimmune disease have a hundred thoughts going through their mind—who was that who just coughed, is it too busy for me to go to that event, where’s my hand sanitiser?
So, I’ve compiled some tips on how to stay healthy these winter months when you’re dealing with autoimmunity. (Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list, but I hope these tips may help anyone who hadn’t considered them before)
Get the Flu Jab
Check with a doctor, a pharmacist or online to see if you are eligible for the free flu jab.
You should be eligible if you are pregnant, are aged 65 years or over, have a long-term health condition (check which conditions are eligible), are a carer of children aged two to three years.
Wash your hands & ensure overall hygiene
Flu is very infectious and spread by germs, which can live on hands and/or surfaces for around 24 hours. Therefore, it is extremely important to trap germs with tissues when you sneeze, wash your hands with warm water and bin any used tissues after use to reduce the risk of getting or spreading the flu.
Avoid touching your face
It is important to withhold from touching your face, as this can potentially make you ill. If you touch your face when you have come into contact with potential viruses like the common cold or the flu, you may catch them.
Wrap a scarf around your face
If your nose is warm, you are less likely to get a cold. Research shows that low temperatures make it harder to fight off the bugs that cause colds. Many people carry this rhinovirus bug in their nose at all times and the virus multiplies more quickly in the nose than the body as it's colder, meaning keeping your nose warm could prevent catching a cold.
Stay hydrated & eat well
Autoimmune or not, everyone needs to eat well and stay hydrated to stay healthy! But here’s why it helps: Water is responsible for transporting nutrients and oxygen around your body, getting rid of waste products, controlling your temperature and proper function of your digestive system.
The exact amount of fluid you personally need can depend on things like: your age, the amount of physical activity you do, the climate, if you’re pregnant and your diet. But as a basic guide, most people need about one and a half to two litres of fluid a day (about 8-10 glasses).
Top tip: If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try adding a slice of lemon or lime to your drink.
Avoid populated spaces
You are more likely to catch a virus when surrounded by crowds of people. Try heading out at the least busy times.
If you feel unwell, speak to a doctor or pharmacist
You may just feel a little under the weather, but as you are autoimmune, it is very important to just get yourself to a physician to check that you are not at risk at all.
Avoid unnecessary stress
Stress makes everything worse for everyone, and, unsurprisingly, research suggests that stress can exacerbate autoimmune disease.
So, here’s how to avoid some pressing examples of stress around Christmas time:
- Create a budget, and stick to it. Create a list of what you want to buy for people, and order it online.
- It’s okay to be jolly and have a little drink if you want to! Just know when to stop.
- Don’t feel guilty about sleeping in or having naps when life is hectic.
- If you shop locally, avoid crowds and overpopulated spaces
- Do not overburden yourself carrying gifts and groceries around
- Keep all your reciepts in one place (just in case!)
- Don’t make over complicated meals if you don’t have the time or energy—it’s not worth making you ill
- Eat your veggies!
- Avoid hugs and kisses—it’s not rude, you need to prioritise your health over niceties
- Pace yourself
Finally, if you have an autoimmune friend or family member, take care of them. Make sure you are not compromising their health by being careless with your hygiene and if you are feeling poorly, delay being around them until you are back to normal.