6 Winter Health Woes & How to Solve Them

From wearing all of your favorite boots and scarves to playing in the snow, there are so many reasons to love winter. Unfortunately, the chilly weather and dry air during the winter months can also cause a plethora of health issues and worsen preexisting ones.

Common winter ailments can range from minor problems, such as dry skin, to more major issues, like vitamin deficiencies and asthma attacks. Here are some common health problems you might be facing this winter and how to solve them!

1. Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because most people get it naturally from the sun. Unfortunately, spending more time indoors during the winter may mean you’re not getting this vitamin naturally like you do during warmer months.

Deborah Cochran, a registered nurse at The Good News Clinics in Gainesville, Georgia, says that vitamin D deficiency is extremely common in the winter. “We’re always indoors, and there’s fluorescent lights, so we don’t have the natural light needed for our bodies to produce vitamin D,” Cochran says.

Vitamin D helps with a bunch of different functions of your body, but mainly it helps bones absorb calcium. Being severely deficient in this vitamin could mean your bones may become brittle and misshapen, which could lead to osteoporosis or stress fractures.

It’s recommended that adults get 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D a day. Your body needs about 20 minutes outside without sunscreen a day in order to produce sufficient amounts of this vitamin, Cochran says. You can also get vitamin D from food; a typical low-fat yogurt contains about 20 percent of your daily needs, and a glass of fortified nonfat milk contains about 25 percent of this daily value

If you’ve been feeling symptoms such as fatigue and lack of energy and think you may be deficient in vitamin D, talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend taking a vitamin supplement or increasing your consumption of foods that are rich in vitamin D.

2. Eczema and dry skin

When the weather turns cold and dry, your skin can turn dry along with it. Cochran recommends moisturizing by using natural substances such as almond oil, coconut oil or vitamin E in an oil form. Using oils that your body can absorb naturally will help keep skin moisturized throughout the winter, she says.

Dry, irritated skin is common in the winter, but there could be another underlying cause. If your skin seems flaky, red or more irritated than normal, you may have eczema. Eczema consists of red, dry, itchy patches that can show up anywhere on your skin. The exact cause of eczema isn’t known, but it’s thought to be your body’s immune system reacting to an irritant, resulting in the dry patches.

Eczema may look unattractive, but it isn’t contagious. If you think you have eczema, visit your doctor and he or she can prescribe a topical cream or medication to help clear the rash up.

Cochran says hydration is key to keeping dry skin and eczema at bay. “If you drink enough fluids, then you usually don’t have that dry, cracked skin,” she says.

Whether you’re suffering from a condition like eczema or simply have dry skin, there are a few easy things you can do to help alleviate the problem. Avoid irritants, like scented lotions, detergents and soaps, and consider switching to products made for sensitive skin, like Cetaphil products.

3. SAD (seasonal affective disorder)

It’s normal to feel sad every now and then, but if you’re feeling more than the “winter blues,” you may have SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. So what’s the difference between being sad and having SAD?

The American Psychological Association defines SAD as symptoms of depression that arise seasonally, usually during the colder months of fall and winter. The symptoms are similar to that of depression: feeling anxious, moody or withdrawn, and experiencing severe changes in behavior. SAD is thought to be linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain caused by the drop in sunlight that occurs during the shorter days of winter.

If you’re having any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek help immediately. Many schools offer counseling as part of their student health services, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of this and call your school’s health services to set up an appointment.

4. Asthma

Finding motivation to exercise in the winter is difficult enough, but worrying about asthma can make this even tougher. While cold weather doesn’t cause asthma, cold, dry air can exacerbate asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing, coughing or chest pain.

“I was hospitalized once from an asthma attack I got while walking to class in the winter,” says Alexa Phillips, a University of Delaware graduate. “It gets a lot worse in the cold, and it was so bad by the time I got to class that an ambulance had to be called.”

If you have exercise-induced asthma, try to avoid vigorous exercise outside during chilly temperatures. Serious asthma attacks can be potentially life-threatening, so carry your inhaler with you at all times if you have asthma, and immediately stop exercising if you begin feeling the symptoms of an asthma attack.

5. Circulation problems

If you’ve ever forgotten to wear gloves on your walk to class or gone for a run when it’s just a little too chilly out, you may have noticed your fingers and toes turning a little white from the cold.

While white fingertips and tingling can arise from simply spending too long in the cold, Raynaud’s disease can also cause these problems. Raynaud’s disease is extremely poor circulation caused by the narrowing of small arteries. Sufferers of this disease may notice their fingers, toes or other extremities turning white and tingling in cold temperatures or when they’re stressed.

Women are more likely to have this disease, and genetics likely play a factor as well, so if your mom or another close relative has it, you may too. In most cases, Raynaud’s isn’t serious and is more of a minor annoyance. If you think you may have this, check with your doctor.

However, there is a simple solution for protecting yourself against the cold in winter months. “Just layering is important; making sure you have enough layers on when you go outside,” Cochran says.

6. Constant sickness

Every collegiette knows that when cold weather hits, you can expect there to be a lot more sniffling and sneezing around the dorm and in class. It seems like in the winter, it’s almost impossible to avoid getting sick, but you can take a few preventative measures to lessen your chances of getting illnesses like the common cold.

“Contact is how things are spread, so the basic thing is always hand-washing,” Cochran says. “Just plain soap and water; nothing fancy.”

Cold weather also means flu season, so make sure you get your flu shot! Many schools offer it at the student health center, and pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS also offer the flu shot, often with no appointment needed. The flu can get serious pretty quickly, so it’s important to get immunized if you haven’t done so already.

To avoid falling ill with a cold or another virus, you can take the basic preventative steps: wash your hands, make sure you’re eating right and exercising and try not to spend too much time around people who might be sick.


Whether you’re suffering from a serious health condition or a minor annoyance, winter weather can be frustrating to deal with. Make sure you take care of yourself to avoid falling ill, and if you’re experiencing any unusual symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or your school’s health center!