Five common health concerns during the winter season

With the winter season upon us, there are some common health concerns that need treatment and our friendly neighbourhood pharmacist is a great resource to give us advice.

1. Vitamin D supplementation

During the winter months, Canadians do not get enough vitamin D due to minimal sun exposure. Vitamin D is required to increase the absorption of calcium into the body, which is crucial to maintain bone health. Sunlight is the primary natural source of vitamin D in humans. Food sources of vitamin D are very limited, with the best natural food sources being fatty fish (e.g. cod, eel, salmon) and egg yolks. In Canada, some foods are fortified with vitamin D (e.g. margarine, cow’s and goat’s milk, infant formulas, meal replacements, and nutritional supplements). During winter months, ask your pharmacist about vitamin D supplementation and how much you might need.

2. Common Cold

Colds are more prevalent in the winter months and many people will be looking for remedies to treat their cough and sniffles. Usually with plenty of rest and fluids, the symptoms will go away in about 7-10 days. Antibiotics are not recommended as colds are caused by viruses. Some people may prefer natural health product to treat their symptoms, but there is a lack of evidence to prove that these are effective. Discussing your symptoms with your pharmacist is the best approach as he or she can choose the best product for you. Remember that young children under the age of six should not be given cough, cold, or flu medications but your pharmacist can provide alternative options to help manage your child’s symptoms.

3. Gas

Gas and bloating are common holiday meal complaints. Belching is most often caused by swallowing air or eating foods that release gas and when gas gets trapped in the stomach, it can cause bloating, cramps and flatulence. Symptoms can also be due to certain foods such as dairy products, some types of fruit and vegetables or fizzy drinks. Overeating large meals in the late evening can cause symptoms, so eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day can help reduce symptoms. If your symptoms are bothersome, ask your pharmacist about any over-the-counter products that are right for you.

4. Cold sores

Cold sores are caused by the reactivation of the herpes simplex virus, and unlike what the name implies, they are not more prevalent in the cold weather. However, in the winter they can be triggered by bright sunlight exposure which may be a problem for those skiing. Stress is another trigger. Cold sores disappear in 1-2 weeks and some over-the-counter medication can make this time shorter. A pharmacist can advise you on which cold sore medication can help. It is important that you apply the cold sore medication at the first sign of the cold sore which is a tingling or burning usually on the upper lip. Ways to reduce triggers is to reduce stress and a sunscreen with a with minimum SPF 30 on the lips can help prevent recurrence of cold sores. Avoid the spread of cold sores to other people by washing hands frequently and avoiding skin-to-skin contact with others until after the blister has disappeared.

5. Smoking cessation

As the year comes to an end, new year resolutions are made and one popular goal is to quit smoking. But this is often a much harder task than anticipated. It often takes multiple tries before succeeding, so don’t get discouraged if you find quitting smoking difficult. Your pharmacist can help you keep on track with your smoking cessation goals. Speak to your pharmacist about medications that can help you reach your goal, and help with cravings.

Back to top