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8 Winter health myths exposed

It’s surprising how many myths surround winter health and illness. With the cold and flu season now upon us, it’s time to set the record straight and expose these commonly-believed myths.

Woman hiking in the winter

Myth 1: You can get sick from being out in the cold

You may recall your mum telling you that if you go out in the cold for too long, especially with wet hair, you’ll end up catching a cold. The truth is that a cold is caused by a virus or bacteria, and these are spread between people in various ways. Cold weather has nothing to do with spreading a virus or bacteria. In fact, colds are more likely to be caught indoors when people come in close contact with each other.

Myth 2: You don’t need to wear sunscreen in winter

Harmful UVA and UVB rays are present even when the sun isn’t shining. A cloudy day shouldn’t mean you skip the sunscreen. In our Aussie climate, sunscreen should be worn no matter what the weather or temperature. It may sound ironic, but if you’re going to be outside in the winter weather, you still need to be sun smart.

Find out how to care for your skin this winter >>

Myth 3: Depression is more common in winter time

According to Dr. John Sharp, author and professor at Harvard University, depression is not more common during the winter months. Holiday blues, otherwise referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), can have similar symptoms to depression, but they’re not considered the same thing. If you feel a little blue, irritable or have difficulty concentrating during the winter months, it might be Seasonal Affective Disorder, instead of depression, you are experiencing.

Myth 4: You need more sleep during winter

Although it may feel like you need more sleep during the colder winter months, your body doesn’t actually require more sleep. Our bodies are designed to wake up with the sun. When you wake up in the morning and it’s dark, it can be more difficult for our bodies to wake up. It is the natural sunlight that stimulates our bodies to wake up.

Myth 5: Your allergies won’t bother you in winter

You may not suffer from pollen allergies during the winter months, but indoor allergens such as dust mites, pet dander and mould can cause allergies to flare up, leaving you with typical hayfever symptoms.

Myth 6: The flu jab can give you the flu

It is commonly thought that getting the flu jab can actually give you the flu. As Christine Hay, MD, assistant professor at the University of Rochester Medical Centre, confirms, it is not impossible for the flu vaccine to give you the flu. The flu jab doesn’t contain any live flu virus. As with any vaccination, you can experience flu-like symptoms afterwards, but having the flu vaccine won’t lead to getting the flu.

Myth 7: You shouldn’t exercise in cold weather

As long as you warm up first, there’s nothing wrong with exercising in cold weather. Ease yourself into your exercise routine with stretches indoors and then a brisk walk until your body has acclimatised to the outside temperature. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing, nothing too hot or heavy. If it’s really chilly out, then a hat and gloves can keep you comfortably warm without getting overheated.

Check out these ways to keep active in cooler weather >>

Myth 8: Antibiotics will cure your cold or flu

The common cold and flu is caused by a virus, not bacteria. Therefore, antibiotics have no effect. Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections. Your doctor should only prescribe you antibiotics if you develop a secondary infection.

More winter wellness tips

5 Winter workout ideas
How to stave off the winter flu
Spa treatments to give you great skin in winter

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