Winter Health Woes—Solved!
By Karen Asp
Everyone wants to get into the holiday spirit. But spending too much time at
the buffet and bar at parties, stressing out about finding the perfect gifts,
and skimping on sleep and exercise can weaken your immune system, making you
more susceptible to a grab bag of winter illnesses. Here, how to prevent and
cure some top ailments so you can sail-not suffer-through the holidays.
Why now? Between 50 percent and 80 percent of Americans have herpes simplex
virus type 1, which remains in the body and can cause an outbreak of
fluid-filled blisters at any time. Usually cold sores crop up when you're
stressed, tired, suffering from PMS, or in the sun for a long time (even in
winter), and last about 10 days.
What to do: Get plenty of sleep, minimize stress, and apply sun protection
to your face and lips. At the first tingle of a blister, apply an
over-the-counter (OTC) topical cream like Abreva, which speeds healing, five
times daily until the cold sore disappears, says Audrey Kunin, M.D., founder of
DermaDoctor.com. If you get cold sores every few weeks, ask your doctor for a
daily prescription medication like Valtrex, which impairs the virus and speeds
Why now? Dry indoor heat, frigid outdoor temperatures, and low humidity
everywhere can strip your skin of moisture.
What to do: Limit showers to 10 minutes and use warm water instead of hot,
which can exacerbate dryness. While your skin is still damp, slather on a body
cream with alpha hydroxy acid, a fruit acid that sloughs off the dead skin and
allows your skin to retain more moisture. Also try using pH-balanced soap,
applying hand cream after washing, and placing a humidifier in your
Why now? Eating larger meals, dining too close to bedtime, and indulging in
fatty foods, chocolate, peppermint, and alcohol can aggravate the stomach
lining and send acid up into the esophagus. Symptoms include burning chest
pain, a bitter taste in the mouth, and the sensation that food is coming back
into the mouth.
What to do: If you feel an attack coming on, pop an antacid like Tums. Still
feeling the burn? Take an OTC H2 blocker such as Pepcid AC or Zantac to help
slow the production of stomach acid. If these meds don't help and your
heartburn gets worse, try taking Prilosec OTC, a medication that you take for
14 days to significantly decrease acid production in the stomach. If you still
don't feel better, see your doctor.
Why now? Changes in diet, weather, sleep patterns, and stress or hormone
levels can trigger these headaches. You'll know it's a migraine if you have
throbbing pain and nausea, vomiting, and/or sensitivity to light and noise.
What to do: Watch what you eat, especially if cheese, wine, and chocolate
trigger your migraines. Also, reduce stress and maintain a regular sleep
schedule. At the first twinges of a migraine, take an OTC pain reliever such as
Advil. For moderate to severe migraines, ask your doctor about a prescription
medication such as Imitrex.