Winter mistakes we ALL make: From drying clothes indoors to not drinking enough

Relying on vitamin C

Most of us reach for the orange juice at the first sign of a sniffle but research shows we’re wasting our time. A 2013 review looked at over 70 years of clinical research and found that vitamin C taken after a cold starts neither shortens it nor lessens symptoms. And there’s no point taking extra vitamin C to prevent colds as the body will absorb only what it needs. Studies show taking zinc supplements within 24 hours of developing cold symptoms speeds up recovery and lessens symptoms.

Not drinking enough

In the winter we don’t feel as thirsty as we do during the summer but, we still need to drink two litres of fluid each day to stay hydrated. However, we can still reach for a cuppa on a chilly day. Hot drinks still count towards your fluid intake. “Just try not to have too many caffeinated drinks. Up to 400mg a day of caffeine is a healthy limit for most adults, which is around four cups of brewed coffee.”

Ditching sunscreen

During the winter increased cloud cover and reduced power of the sun’s rays mean that our risk of skin cancer is minimal. But the bad news is that even in the depths of winter, exposure to the sun still has an ageing affect on the skin.Most ageing and wrinkling of the skin is due to sun exposure so chronic outdoor exposure, even in winter months, will be damaging to the skin. Many foundations, moisturisers and primers contain at least a factor 15 SPF, so for women concerned with photo-ageing this probably is adequate protection during the winter at least.

Wearing fake Ugg boots

They might keep us warm but fake Ugg boots can cause problems. “They make you lopsided, in a pigeon-toed way, which forces women to walk abnormally,” says Dr Tariq Khan, podiatrist at the Marigold clinic at UCL Hospital. “The wearer’s feet slide around. This can cause feet to splay and leads to wear and tear on joints. I’d recommend something like the FitFlop boot. As long as your boots give the correct support, you will be ok.” 

Drying your clothes indoors

A study showed that 91% of us have too many volatile organic compounds – chemicals readily released into the atmosphere from products – in our homes. When we dry washing indoors we release acetaldehyde and benzene. These are carcinogenic and can irritate asthma and skin conditions. “Make sure your windows are open if you dry laundry inside to reduce VOC levels indoors,” says Peter Howarth, Professor of Allergy and Respiratory at Southampton University. “Otherwise even people who don’t have asthma or skin conditions may get headaches, sore throats and irritated eyes.”

Hitting the snooze button

On a cold morning it’s hard to spring out of bed but, stretching out those last few moments under the duvet is the worst thing you can do. Hitting the snooze button breaks the body’s sleep cycle and leaves you needing more Sleeping with the heating on is also wrong. The bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet. “The body temperature drops by a degree celsius during sleep, so the easier this happens, the better.”

Reaching for carbs

Shockingly, the average person gains 5-7lbs over the winter as we fill up on comfort foods and ditch our exercise routines. “People don’t seem to think a few pounds are a problem but it’s a lot of excess fat surrounding your vital organs,” says Sioned Quirke from the British Dietetic Association. “I always encourage patients to embrace winter veg, such as butternut squash, parsnips or kale, and make homemade soups. Even in winter people should half fill their plates with veg or salad then divide the other half between carbs and protein.”

Dressing too warmly to exercise

It’s tempting to layer up against the elements but, people underestimate how warm sportswear can be. And excess sweating means the body gets chilled when the sweat evaporates. Recommend compression shirts made from a mixture of spandex and nylon. This combination helps keep muscles warm and draw moisture away from the skin to prevent chaffing. Shorts or base level-trousers will be better in wet weather than jogging pants that get heavy when wet and it’s important to change into something warm after exercise. Otherwise you may get ill.

Ignoring allergies

We tend to think of allergies as summertime menaces. But according to Professor Howarth, closed windows leave us prone to Toxic Home Syndrome. “This is when families are exposed to a mix of airborne pollutants, making respiratory and skin diseases occur more frequently,” he says. “Condensation and mould become more prominent and other pollutants caused by items such as candles and cleaning products add to this. I’d urge people to improve their home’s ventilation in winter to minimise their risk of illness.”