News on Sunday

Winter Season : Precautionary Measures Essential 


Are you feeling a little cold these days? Well, winter is already here. Even though we are expecting a temperature above the usual average for some days this year, it is still essential for each of us to take our precautionary measures in order to fight the various issues that will crop up this winter season. 

Take out your winter apparels, people! The cold period of the year is back, bringing along its inconveniencies. As our immune system grows weaker during winter, we are prone to be affected by various health issues such as flu, sore throat, skin rashes and others. According to 

Isshaq Jowahir

Dr Isshaq Jowahir, the two major issues that impact people during winter is the fact that our resistance to illnesses is lower than in summer and chronicle respiratory illnesses such as sinus or bronchitis become stronger during that period, especially among children and old people. “People who suffer from health issues like rheumatism indeed experience more pain during winter,” he says. 

“Intestinal problems are also most frequent during winter, especially among children and babies who suffer from diarrhea. It is because the infant intestine is prone to the virus called ‘rota’,” further explains Dr Jowahir. He highlights that these are the reasons why the ‘rota’ virus vaccine is advised. Regarding food and nutrition, the doctor utters that people tend to eat more and exercise less during winter. “This leads to weight gain and also a less healthy lifestyle, as people tend to consume more fatty foods.”

How to keep good health during winter and stay away from illnesses? “It is vital to take the necessary precautions during winter. To begin with, it is recommended for people to wear clothes that will keep them warm and avoid getting exposed to rain, strong winds and other climatic inconveniences. Secondly, we must build our resistance. How? By consuming fresh vegetables and fruits which are high in vitamins. Eat more acerbic fruits like kiwi, limes, or oranges. This will help us to fight colds and also to get well rapidly if we are already sick.”

Dr Jowahir points out that for those who are sick and suffer from flu, there are necessary and important hygienic precautions to take. “They should stay and home and medicate because if they are at work or out in public, they will contaminate others. For example, viruses will stuck on mouse pads, door knobs and flight of stairs, among others. Secondly, in order to contaminate less people, they must not touch everything. This is one of the reasons why it is very important for them to wash their hands regularly. They must also use a handkerchief when sneezing and use different recipients and towels, out of reach from what other family members are using,” he explains. 

The doctor advises everyone to get the flu vaccine. “The flu vaccine is recommended as from six months old babies and up for children and adults. I recommend it strongly to those who suffer from respiratory diseases such as asthma and others. The vaccine is available in hospitals, health centers, pharmacies or private clinics. I, however, recommend patients to see their doctor prior to getting vaccinated just in order to be sure that they are fully eligible for it.”

What about taking vitamin pills? Dr Jowahir states that it is more in the Mauritian culture to take those pills but it is not a recommendation. “I trust that people must be cautious instead of taking pills here and there and they may develop allergies. It is more advisable to have a balanced diet.”

Natural Remedies - Imraan Abdool : “People should consume fruits that are rich in vitamin C as well as bioflavonoids”

As for the naturopath Imraan Abdool, he recommends many natural remedies for winter illnesses. “There are natural remedies to cure flu. People should consume fruits that are rich in vitamin C as well as bioflavonoids (also known as vitamin P). The latter amplifies the action of the former to stimulate the body’s defense system to fight bacteria and microbes. They also contain ‘Coumarin’, which increases the activity of the enzyme Glutathione and detoxifies the body.”

He adds that tamarind also contains vitamin C and acts on the lymphatic system and prevents infections of amygdales. “People can also have raw garlic which has antiviral properties. Ginger infusion is equally beneficial. Onions, which contain Quercetin, stimulates the immune system and protects against the flu according to a study done by the University of South Carolina, USA, published in 2008. All of these three have warming properties. You can also add citronella to the ginger infusion, as it has anti-viral properties. ”

What food should people suffering from asthma, rhinitis, bronchitis or sinusitis allergy avoid during winter? “They must avoid products such as bananas and cucumber, mousse and yogurt, coconut and coconut water, rice for dinner, melon and watermelon, milk, soft drinks and ice-creams.” 

In case of acute cough, the naturopath recommends cinnamon and clove infusion. “Make an infusion of a mixture of cinnamon powder and clove powder. You can re-infuse the same powder two more times. Do not exceed three days to avoid inflammations of the mucous tissues. Raw saffron in boiled milk is also a very good natural remedy.” For infants and children, Imraan Abdool recommends ‘Baume du Perou’ and cow ghee. “You can also make homemade soup of fresh or dried mushrooms, as they contain polysaccharides that have a positive effect on the defense system.”

 Nutrition - Diane Desmarais: “Be careful of fried and fast foods which are high in calories and bad for your health”

Nutritionist and Holistic Health Practitionner, Diane Desmarais states that nutrition plays an important part in the maintenance of good health, especially during winter. She strongly advises people to avoid eating too much during the cold season.

“It is certainly tempting in winter since the days are shorter (we see less sunlight and this can be depressing for some and lead to emotional eating) and we are craving for more cooked and warm foods. Continue eating healthy and even if the dishes need to be warmer, prepare them healthily with a steamer, a little olive oil, herbs and spices as usual. Be careful of fried and fast foods which are high in calories and bad for your health. Continue exercising even if it means a little less frequent during the week, catch up in the weekend, or do shorter sessions everyday as the sun rises!”

What food and beverages should we avoid during winter?  “The usual foods to be avoided during the whole year should be avoided during winter, especially sugar and sugary foods, which weaken the immune system. Our immune system is protecting us against viruses and bacteria and is very active in winter,” explains Diane Desmarais. “Drinks to avoid are the usual alcohol and sugary drinks, including sodas and iced teas, fruit juices and the like. Water and herbal teas are the best, and although we do not feel as hot as in summer, we still need our two to three litres of water each day.”

The nutritionist explains that there are many fresh and local foods to consume and which will best help us to stay healthy on all levels during winter.  “Our seasonal fruits and vegetables rank high here, and are always needed to bring us vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Water and herbal teas, such as ginger and turmeric teas, are very protective. For proteins, I recommend fish, pulses, beans, raw nuts and some yogurt, if needed. Finally for energy, a little portion of brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, for example for lunch essentially, will add on the intake of vitamins & minerals. We shouldn’t forget our essential fatty acids also brought by crushed and raw linseeds, raw pumpkin and sunflower seeds.”

Joint Pains - Dr Dhawal Nunraj : “Arthritis is very common during winter”

Dr Dhawal Nunraj, Sport Medicine/Acupuncture physician, explains that arthritis is very common during winter. “There are many types of arthritis, all of which involve inflammation of the joints. During winter months, every single (arthritis patient) comes in with significantly more pain,” he says.

Why does the pain increase? “A rise in barometric pressure (the pressure exerted by the weight of air in the atmosphere) during winter months exacerbates arthritis symptoms and other joint and spine issues.”

He states that arthritis affects those who are fit and young as well as the elderly. “Symptoms include joint pain, swelling and redness. While they can happen at any time of year, they often worsen during winter. While arthritis - and particularly one of its most common types, osteoarthritis - is most common in the elderly, it can also affect those below the age of 65.”

Dr Nunraj explains that to counteract stiffness in the joints, it is recommended to do stretching and conducting tension release exercises. Swimming, he highlights, is one of the best types of exercise for those suffering from joint pains.

“Much joint pain and stiffness can be caused by inflammation around the joint tissue, so it is important to include lots of antioxidants in your diet that can help to flush out any nasty toxins from your system.” 

Regarding food and beverage intake, Dr Nunraj explains that it is important to make an extra effort to stay hydrated in the winter. Hydration is essential to maintain overall joint health. In addition, he advises people to eat plenty of berries, beetroots, as well as carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

“You can also try taking a cucurmin supplement, which contains the anti-inflammatory properties found in turmeric, and helps combat against inflammation. If you need a little extra help, try taking a supplement such as Glucosamine which helps to support joint health and improve mobility. However, it may be worth making an appointment with your doctor to discuss a course of action.”

Skin Care - Dr Karishma Deenoo : “Avoid long hot showers. Prefer warm showers”

Dermatologist Dr Karishma Deenoo explains that skin problems surface during winter season. “The most common skin issues arise because of the dry, cold climate and some changes in habits (like long hot showers, certain fabrics) during that season. Dry air tends to remove the thin film of lipids present on the skin, which preserves moisture within the skin barrier. This results in flaring up of itchy and sometimes painful skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and dry skin (xerosis). Some types of dandruff also flare up due to the change in climate and the use of hair accessories to protect the head from the cold,” she explains. 

What to do to avoid these skin problems during winter? “Avoid long hot showers. Prefer warm showers. Moisturize right after shower on damp skin. Even oily skin needs moisturizing. Use non irritating cotton fabrics immediately on the skin, followed by other heavier fabrics, which can irritate the skin. It is very important to stay hydrated. Eat healthy, but do not overeat, as this may exacerbate certain conditions. If humidity is less that 30%, use a humidifier,” advises the dermatologist. 

Dr Karishma Deenoo states that there are various remedies to those skin problems. “When the moisture from the skin is being removed, and it is not replaced accordingly, the skin forms cracks that affect the skin barrier. The most important thing to do to remedy this is to use a good or rich moisturiser religiously. It is preferable to use the moisturiser on damp skin right after shower. Some people do oatmeal or sea-salt baths which help the skin, but it is important to also moisturise after. Certain oils can also be used to hydrate the skin. As for the scalp, I would not advise to stop wearing hats, caps, scarves, and others but instead address the underlying condition by using proper treatment.”

Regarding the care that should not be shunned, Dr Deenoo advises that people should continue using a sunscreen of minimum SPF 30 even during winter, especially in Mauritius. “Moreover, do not let dry cracked lips exacerbate. Moisturise with a proper lip balm from the beginning and avoid lip licking. If suffering from dry hands, moisturise after every hand washing. It is tempting to use hot water for household chores, especially when washing dishes during winter, but remember that hot water dries the skin considerably. Moisturise regularly or use gloves,” she explains.