Winter is one of the most common times for people to get sick, and it's also one of the worst due to the hectic holidays. But here's the good news—with a little bit of planning, you might be able to avoid getting sick or feeling worse.
We're not doctors (and you should always defer to one before making a health or lifestyle change) but coming from experience, here's some handy tips you should know about getting ahead of nagging winter ailments
Preventive care is the best care
Even though it might seem difficult to find time for doctor appointments during the rush of the holidays, the truth is that proactively visiting the doctor will save you time in the long run.
It might seem counterintuitive, but visiting your doctor requires about an hour of your time, but if you get sick, you could lose days or even weeks to fatigue. Because of that, it's important to prioritize holistic care this winter.
If you feel congested or itchy during winter, you might have seasonal allergies. Most people associate allergies with warm seasons like summer and spring, but of the 50 million people who suffer from allergies, a large percentage suffer during the winter months due to drier air and an increase in time spent indoors.
If you have a history of feeling congested or suffering from sinus pain during the cold months, it might be a good idea to visit your doctor or see a specialist to get help. Luckily, doctor visits are eligible, so don't forget to use your FSA funds to pay for copays or other fees.
Seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression related to seasons, affects 6% of the U.S. population. Most people with SAD experience depression during the winter months, which are colder and darker. In addition, 14% of the U.S. population suffers from a lesser form of seasonal affective disorder known as the "winter blues."
If you notice that you feel depressed or down during the dark and cold winter months, it is a good idea to talk with your doctor. Your doctor might recommend medication, talk therapy or even light therapy.
You've probably heard that you should get a flu shot before the winter flu season, but that doesn't necessarily mean you've done it. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of Americans didn't get a flu shot last year. The good news is that it only takes a few minutes to get one and it is FSA-eligible.
Here's the deal—dry skin, eczema, itchy skin and even acne are all associated with the dry air and cold temperature of the winter months. If your skin is painful during winter, it might be a good idea to make an appointment with a dermatologist.
If lotion and other FSA-eligible over the counter treatments aren't helping (note that some may require a prescription with your FSA), then it's a good idea to see a specialist and get the help you need. Even though it may not seem like it, the truth is that painful skin doesn't have to be a normal part of life during the winter.
What to do if you're already sick
Unfortunately, sickness is sometimes inevitable. If you find yourself feeling ill or struggling with a particular ailment, the first step is to visit your doctor. After that, follow your doctor's instructions and rest. Your body will be back in action in no time.
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While spring allergies certainly get a lot more attention when pollen levels peak, winter has its own set of various indoor irritants to trigger those allergy symptoms many of us know all too well. As your furnace kicks in during the winter months, it can send dust mites, mold spores, and insect parts into the air which can find its way to your breathing passages to cause an adverse reaction.
One to way to help mitigate symptoms is to get a better idea of where these allergy triggers are surfacing from. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that particularly love to hide in mattresses and bedding. Their droppings and remains, when airborne, are most likely the source of your symptoms.
Additionally, mold can be found in damp and humid areas such as basements and bathrooms, but can also manifest itself under moldy carpets, soggy drywall, and areas with water leaks. As you spend more time indoors in the winter, these allergens become more prominent in causing discomfort and allergic reactions.
Treatment for your winter allergies can include Antihistamines and Decongestants, both of which are available for purchase with an FSA (with a prescription) on FSAstore.com. Antihistamines help to reduce sneezing, sniffling, and itching. Decongestants clear mucus in the nose and lungs to relieve congestion and swelling.
Antihistamines (Prescription required to purchase with FSA):
If neither of these work and your symptoms are serious, you may want to consider immunotherapy, which consists of allergy shots or under-the-tongue tablets. Immunotherapy should expose your body to gradually bigger doses of the allergen to curb your symptoms for the longer term.
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