5 Ways to Stay Healthy This Winter

By , Family Circle Health Editors
Your winter woes answered, with tips on how to treat--and weather--cold symptoms, body changes, injuries and more.

Q. I've had a cold for what seems like weeks. Should I see a doctor?

A. Yes. The typical cold lasts just seven to nine days, with people usually feeling the worst on days two to four, says Priya Wagle, M.D., an ear, nose and throat specialist in private practice in Linwood, New Jersey. "If you experience symptoms for a longer period of time, check with your doctor to be sure you don't have something more serious, like a sinus infection. A cold is a virus, so antibiotics won't help, but sinusitis can be bacterial and is treated with a prescription." 
Q. I fall into a funk every winter -- tired, unmotivated and moody. Why?

A. Gray skies and the constant need to scrape frost from your windshield are enough to bring anyone down. But if you struggle to find joy in the things that normally make you happy, you may be suffering from season affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that usually occurs during the colder months. Some doctors believe that reduced sunlight may cause a drop in serotonin, the brain chemical that makes you feel happy. Try making a few lifestyle changes: Let more light into your home, get outside for at least a few minutes each morning and exercise daily. If you're still feeling down, visit your doctor to discuss other treatment options.

Q. Last year I hurt my back shoveling. How do I prevent it from happening again?

A. Wear layers, says Jack Stern, M.D., a spine specialist in White Plains, New York. "That'll increase blood flow, making you less likely to pull a muscle." Then grab a lightweight shovel made of plastic or aluminum. While you work, keep your knees bent, take a water break every 15 minutes and vary your technique (throw a pile to your left, then to the right). Before you start—and after you're done—do five of each of these stretches inside.

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