Special Report

Health Problems That Are More Common in the Fall and Winter

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Cold sores

Winter reliably provides the conditions for cold sores, caused by the herpes simplex virus. Cold sores are highly contagious and most likely to present themselves when people are suffering from dry skin, when they are stressed or feeling run down, or when their immune systems are being challenged.

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Frostbite is an injury caused by exposure to very cold temperatures. A frostbite leads to loss of color and feeling in the parts of the body that are exposed, usually extremities such as toes, fingers, and facial features — even the eyes. It can cause serious injury and, in extreme cases, require amputation of the injured body part.

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Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause hypothermia — when the body uses up its heat faster than it is able to produce it. Even mildly cold temperatures can cause hypothermia if the person is wet and cold. As the body’s temperature drops, the brain is affected, leading to confusion and reduced ability to function — such as getting needed help. In the United States, there were an average of 1,301 hypothermia deaths per year between 1991 and 2011.

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Indoor allergens, such as dust mites, mold, mildew, and pet dander, are around all year, but most people spend more time indoors in winter, making them more vulnerable to these allergens. Allergies often feel much like a cold, but while a cold will run its course in a few days to two weeks, allergy symptoms will continue with exposure to allergens.

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People who suffer from migraines often experience spikes in their symptoms with seasonal changes. In winter, migraine headaches may be triggered by changes in barometric pressure, dehydration (caused by cold, dry air), or, for unclear reasons, by temperature changes.

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