Everyone gets sick, your garden looks sad, and your flannel PJs rob you of sex appeal. There’s plenty not to like about winter, but it’s not all bad news when the mercury drops.
[Image source: iStockPhoto | AndreAnita]
Cold mornings, short days, dry skin and thwarted exercise plans, winter isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But it can also mean hearty winter foods and quiet time indoors catching up on your favourite books and movies. We take a look at some of the high and low points of winter.
Shakespeare wrote of “barren winter” and its “wrathful nipping cold” but did you know there’s a hidden upside to winter’s biting chill? Cold temperatures can stimulate brown fat cells, which gobble up kilojoules as they work to keep you warm? Yep, research has found these brown fat cells, which exists in small clumps in the lower neck area and collar bone area, leap into action when they are exposed to the cold and could, in the company of regular exercise and a healthy diet, help you lose a few kilograms.
The Scandinavians, Finns, Japanese and Russians are fans of swims in frigid waters, claiming the health benefits to their circulation, immunity and libido are worth it. And who hasn’t admired those brave people who take mid-winter dips in the name of “fun”? There is even an Antarctic Swim Club! A word of warning however: this is definitely not recommended for those with a heart condition.
If an icy dip sounds like your thing, then you might want to follow up with another of winter’s highlights, a hearty bowl of soup or stew. We’ve got plenty of healthy hearty winter recipes to help keep you warm as the mercury drops.
Many people suffer burns during winter. This can occur from something as a simple as spilling a hot drink, resulting in a scalding injury. Other risks can be found in faulty electrical appliances which can overheat, cause electric shock or even a fire. In 2012, more than 400,000 potentially faulty electric blankets were recalled. And 43% of all fire fatalities occur in winter, so ensure your family is safe with this winter fire safety checklist from NSW Fire and Rescue.
And if you’re a fan of instant hot noodles because they are cheap and easy to prepare, be warned. These are a frequent cause of serious burns, especially in children who often spill them in their laps.
As for cosy hot water bottles, did you know they should never be filled with boiling water and should be replaced every one to two years? Protect your skin by wrapping your hot water bottle in a cover and remember, heat packs too can burn the skin.
And if you do get a burn, don’t even think about treating it by putting butter on it. But running cold water from the tap on a burn for 20 minutes does significantly improve healing as well as prevent scarring. This process can work anytime up to three hours after the injury.
The cold, dry weather of winter is ruinous to skin, turning your peachy complexion into something resembling a reptile. In fact, you may be left with skin you wish you could shed. Skin becomes rough, flaky and itchy and some people can even develop eczema in which the skin becomes inflamed. Heaters and hot showers can often add to the problem.
To avoid dry skin, try moisturising regularly and avoid sitting right beside the heater or taking scalding hot showers. In fact much of your skin’s dryness will likely improve if you take a five minute shower instead of a 15 minute one, says Dr Stephen Schumack, clinical associate professor of dermatology from the University of Sydney.
Soap is notoriously drying so look for a soap-free cleanser which will not strip the oils from your skin and scalp.
And don’t scratch! Scratching can sometimes cause trauma to the skin, leading to sores and potentially, infections.