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Seasonal health tips for navigating weather whims

Seasonal health tips for navigating weather whims

Mardi Gras might be in the rearview for this year, but March in the Crescent City brings its own brand of madness with the unpredictable weather. One day you could be bundled up for a chill, and the next day you could be shedding layers under a scorching sun. If unpredictable weather leaves you feeling down, practice some healthy basics to get you through this transition month. Keep reading to get the details on seasonal health from the University Medical Center New Orleans team.

Why March can feel ‘blah’

Simply looking outside on many winter days can make you feel a little gloomy. That’s because even the sun hides sometimes when cold temperatures are around.

When daylight saving time ends in November, right before winter begins, we “fall back.” Until the time changes in March, we lose an hour of daylight at the end of the day, which means we often come home in the dark. This can really be a bummer and can even cause medical conditions such as seasonal affective disorder.

While the peak of cold and flu season may be over, winter illness can linger. During cooler days, we typically spend more time indoors, close to others, so contagious illnesses like the cold and flu (and also COVID-19, RSV, the stomach bug and strep throat) can more easily pass from one person to another.

How to stay healthy during weather swings

While you can’t really do anything about the unpredictable weather this time of year, you can take steps to avoid getting sick. Consider these the seasonal health basics:

Wash, wash, wash your hands. Regular handwashing is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health year-round. Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds at a time, using soap and water. If soap and water are unavailable, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in a pinch.

Support your immune system. The immune system is a valiant defender against infections, but it isn’t foolproof. Thankfully, you can take action to help support it. Fill your plate with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, including a variety of colors. Prioritize getting enough quality sleep, aiming for between seven and nine hours each night.

Give yourself a shot of good health. If you have been vaccinated against the flu this year, well done. The flu season can extend into May, so having this year’s vaccine can still help protect you against a late-season surge. Plan on getting next year’s flu vaccine in October. You can also talk with your medical provider about other vaccines, including the latest COVID-19 vaccine and the RSV vaccine.

Layer it on. If you’re headed outside, defend yourself from weather changes by dressing in layers. Your best bet for staying warm and dry is to dress in several layers that can be taken off or added as needed. The layer closest to your body should be sweat-wicking, while the outside layer should be long sleeved and wind- and water-resistant. (An added benefit? Layers are particularly practical here in the South, where there are temperature differences in the morning and afternoon.)

Keep moving. Even if you have to move your outdoor workouts inside, it’s important to be physically active this time of year. Like a healthy diet and quality sleep, regular exercise is an immunity booster. Aim to get the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, and add in two muscle-building sessions.

Here in Louisiana, our mild winters often bring an early start to spring allergy season as trees, flowers and grass begin to make pollen. If you have seasonal allergies, taking a daily antihistamine starting two weeks before you typically have symptoms can prevent them before they even begin. Your spring self will thank you!

Under the weather? Schedule a primary care appointment today for a plan to get back to feeling like yourself!