The current wave of very cold, wet weather poses health risks to the population, especially babies and the elderly. The Health Ministry said on Tuesday that special care must be taken to avoid hypothermia.
A thermometer should be hung in the rooms where there are infants and elderly to ensure that the temperature is between 21 and 24 degrees centigrade. To preserve heat, make sure the home is properly insulated with special tape around the windows and doors. Heaters must be safe, without emitting poisonous gas, and kept away from inflammable material.
Elderly and infants should be dressed in layers of clothing that is not heavy and allows movement. Follow the weather reports to dress properly outdoors.
Even in the winter, drink eight to 10 glasses of water, including when you are not thirsty. Avoid drinking a lot of caffeine (in coffee, cola and the like) and alcohol. Older people tend to drink less water than necessary and to suffer from dehydration, also in winter. Eat relatively light meals five or six times a day, avoiding heavy meals. Drinking warm foods and beverages preserves normal body heat of 37 degrees centigrade, the ministry advises. So move and be active at home on cold days.
Elderly who live alone should be carefully supervised on cold days — at least once daily — by family members, friends, neighbors or volunteers.
Consult with the family doctor on whether certain medications taken increase sensitivity to the cold. If an elderly person suffers from hypothermia, he will not complain or shiver, so be alert and take the person to a medical facility if his body temperature is significantly below normal.
Dr. Herzl Salman, an internal medicine and lung specialist at the Rabin Medical Center-Hasharon Campus in Petah Tikva said that the winter brings with it the common cold and the flu, and that the two are not the same. He advised all over the age of six months to get a flu shot. Both are a result of viruses, but they are different and can lead to complications. Colds come from rhinoviruses, while the flu comes from various strains of influenza viruses. But a weakness of the immune system can develop into bacterial infections, sometimes with serious complications.
Cold symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, headaches, sometimes a cough and possibly a low fever. The condition lasts for about a week and can develop into a sinusitis infection that should be treated. Consult a physician if the symptoms last longer or are severe. Over-the-counter remedies can somewhat relieve symptoms.
The flu, however, involves worse symptoms, including a high fever, headaches, body pains and respiratory problems.
It can lead to complications including bronchitis, pneumonia and encephalitis.
In chronically ill patients, it can even be fatal.
Keep hands clean by washing hands frequently with soap and water and avoiding contact with people who cough or sneeze. The virus can be infectious to others within four days of a person’s coming down with the disease.
Ventilate rooms to minimize the spread of the flu virus.
Genuine chicken soup, he added, is a “natural antibiotic” to reduce cold and flu symptoms. Consuming garlic is also helpful.
Prof. Itamar Grotto, head of the Health Ministry’s Public Health Department, dismissed advice allegedly given by the Israel Pediatric Society – reported Tuesday on Ynet — urging people not to use electric humidifiers because they can spread Legionnaires disease and have no beneficial effect. He said that this can occur only in extremely rare cases and only if the device is not cleaned properly. The ministry’s advisory on coping with the winter actually suggested that humidifiers be used to add moisture to the air.