MINOT – With cold season often comes sick season, but thankfully there are ways to help prevent it.
Doctor Casmiar Nwaigwe, director of infectious diseases at Trinity Health and infectious disease specialist, said there are various ways in which the winter season affects people’s health.
The first is simply direct complications from the cold such as hypothermia and frostbite.
“It can also affect you depending on your different health conditions,” said Nwaigwe. “Even if you don’t have underlying problems, because people tend to spend a lot of time indoors and in closed environments, they’re creating the risk of respiratory illnesses such as influenza, common cold, COVID-19, RSV.”
Trinity Health sees patients' health problems often getting worse during cold weather, according to Nwaigwe.
Nwaigwe said cold temperatures can be very hard on a person’s heart, because it is already working hard to keep him or her warm.
“Any extra activity that you have to do is going to put an extra strain on the heart itself,” Nwaigwe explained.
Nwaigwe recommends people, especially those with underlying health conditions, not work outside such as clearing the snow when it is very cold.
“If you have to do it, do it very slowly,” Nwaigwe suggested.
For those who work outside for a living, Nwaigwe said to be aware that their bodies are already working hard to keep them warm.
“Don’t expect to work as hard as you do when the temperature is warmer,” said Nwaigwe.
Dan Jonasson, Minot public works director, confirmed that for those who have to work outside for the city, everything takes much longer when it’s frigidly cold.
Nwaigwe said the cold affects children, infants, and the elderly the most as far as age goes, especially when it comes to hypothermia and frostbite.
Of course, the dilemma comes when it seems healthy to go outside for fresh air and to prevent disease spread, but when it’s frigidly cold it can also be unhealthy.
“There are some benefits to going outside to get fresh air, it just depends on how much you’re outside,” Nwaigwe explained. “One thing we know that can happen, specifically when it’s cold like this, some people can get seasonal depression if they spend too much time indoors. It can affect them mentally.”
Nwaigwe explained that you may not even feel the frostbite coming on when outside, so he believes there is no point in going out when it is dangerously cold.
“If it’s just to get fresh air, even just a few minutes is pushing it,” Nwaigwe said.
Nwaigwe recommends wearing a scarf or mask against the cold, especially for those with asthma, as breathing in cold air can trigger an attack.