It’s that time of the year again. The weather seems to be playing fast and loose with our feelings. Expectations of a comfortable day are often shattered when cool mornings give way to sunny days and, just when you think you can put away your woollens, the nights remain surprisingly chilly.

These quick changes can wreak havoc on your health. For one, blood vessels get constricted in lower temperatures, so they cannot carry as many leukocytes—the cells that act as soldiers against viruses—leading to lowered immunity to viruses and other tiny nasties. Also, this thermal shock reduces the mobility of the nasal cilia (less elegantly called nose hair). This in turn means more allergens and viruses can enter your body, leading to respiratory illnesses.  The body tries to compensate by increasing the production of inflammatory chemicals, which puts a strain on the heart and increases the chance of cardiac arrest and stroke, especially among those already affected by diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension.

Thankfully, it’s not that hard to keep illness at bay. Here’s how to do it:

1.    Drink up

We cannot stress this enough. Hydration helps in improving blood circulation and, with it, your immunity. It also helps keep your throat from feeling dry and, if you’re already under the weather, will help loosen up any phlegm and replace lost bodily fluids. While public wisdom says to drink eight glasses of water a day, we recommend you increase this to 10, even if you aren’t thirsty. If plain water sounds too boring, switch it up with fruit-infused water, soups, juices and even tea and coffee, as long as they are the decaffeinated kind.

2.    Eat for the season

As bountiful sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre, fresh fruits and vegetables should anyway be a part of your daily diet. However, seasonal produce is more flavourful and also usually cheaper, leading to better health both for you and your wallet. Moreover, heavy foods such as dairy and breads, and salads force your body to use up more energy in digestion, leaving it more susceptible to attack.

3.    Spring clean

It’s not called spring cleaning for nothing. Regular cleaning and vacuuming will not only keep your house free of dust and dander, it will also keep you free from the seasonal sniffles. Given that most of us spend most of our time indoors, it just makes sense to control the amount of allergens we are exposed to. Just make sure you also get the corners.

4.    Get moving

It doesn’t matter if you prefer running, biking, trekking, skipping, dancing, calisthenics or tai chi, just do something physical. Exercising outdoors, especially in the morning, is ideal, since it would give you a healthy dose of vitamin D. However, if dust and pollution don’t allow you to head outside, at least get moving at home. It improves your circulation, stretches out your muscles, improves your mood, and generally makes temperamental weather variations easier to deal with.

5.    Rest

This should be the easiest thing in the world to do, but most of us do not get nearly enough sleep. And this negatively affects our bodies’ ability to fight illness. Research has shown that people who sleep less than seven hours a night tend to fall ill more often.  

6.    Layers

If all else fails, dress in layers, so you can add or subtract pieces of clothing as needed, to stay comfortable.

Marilyn Gore tweets at @RealMarilynGore .

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