Monday, January 9, 2017

Don’t Be Fooled by Myths About Winter

Wintertime can be a tough season to get through. For one thing, you have to bundle up in layers and layers of extra clothing anytime you leave the house. For another thing, there are lots of germs floating around. And the weather can be unpredictably treacherous – for driving, walking or however it is you’re getting around. But there are some myths that circulate around winter – and we want to clear them up right here so everyone knows what’s what. Don’t be fooled; read on for the truth about some common cold weather myths.

One of the most widespread winter health myths is that cold air makes you sick. Rather, our bodies actually produce more infection-fighting cells in the cold than otherwise as a way to combat low temperatures. Cold viruses thrive most at 91° Fahrenheit, so being in the cold air (with proper attire, of course) is probably going to help combat sickness rather than cause it.

You don’t need sunscreen in the wintertime. This is just not true. As it turns out, the earth is actually closer to the sun during the winter months (that is, winter months for the northern hemisphere – it’s summer on the other side). This being the case, it’s even more critical to cover your exposed skin with a layer of sunscreen to protect it. Not to mention the harmful rays that can be powerful as they reflect off snow and ice. Granted, less of your skin will be exposed during winter than in other seasons – but make sure you’re protecting what the sun is hitting.

Exercising in the cold is a bad idea: false! Race times have actually been found to be faster in colder temperatures. Again, as long as you’re properly dressed for the weather (and you’re healthy and in good shape), you’ll be fine exercising outside in the freezing air – and may even do better than otherwise.

While four-wheel drive is certainly a good thing to have while driving in wintery weather conditions, it should not be relied upon completely. Four-wheel drive doesn’t help stop a car – rather, it’s snow tires and skilled driving that do that. (Snow tires allow stopping up to 30% faster than otherwise!) Driving in the snow should be done using a vehicle that, yes, has four-wheel drive, but also by a driver who has gone through driver education specific to best winter driving practices. 

Although it might not seem to be the case, drinking alcohol does not warm you up. When you drink alcohol, what’s actually happening is that your blood rushes toward your skin – and away from your internal organs – causing your core temperature to drop. What’s more, alcohol makes it harder for your body to shiver and create extra heat. So, drinking is definitely not a good solution for keeping warm on cold winter nights.

Vitamin C is the solution to the common cold. That would be nice, but unfortunately, it’s not the case – at least not entirely so. Vitamin C will contribute to keeping your immune system strong, but it won’t prevent or necessarily directly help you get over a cold. We do know that a balanced diet, exercise and plenty of sleep (especially through the holiday stress time) will keep you healthy and going strong, whatever the season brings your way.

There are a number of factors that make the winter months difficult – but that doesn’t have to be the case. Embrace the chill by layering up with warm materials like wool and fleece. And when you’re inside on cold, dark nights, create cozy, candle-lit spaces to enjoy. If nothing else, we hope that now you have a more accurate understanding of the common myths about winter and the truths behind them. Feel free to share more winter myths in the comments below – we’d love to hear them!

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