Understanding Winter Throat Issues

Understanding Winter Throat Issues

If you experience more throat issues in the Winter, you are not alone. Irritated, itchy, sore, and dry throats are actually common in the wintertime.  Experiencing a sore throat is a common complaint of winter months. This can cause discomfort, pain, and even lead to a difficulty swallowing or speaking. Why are throat issues more pervasive in winter months? Understanding this link can help you navigate the wintertime more healthily. 

Understanding Winter Throat Issues

The throat, like the nose, is lined with mucus. This mucus covering helps keep the throat and nose moisturized as well as protected from bacteria. The nose makes sure that the air that gets to the lungs is warm and humidified. But winter months mean lower temperatures and cold weather. The key feature of these months is dry air which is inhaled through the nose, evaporating moisture from the lining of the nasal passage. Increased dryness can lead to irritation and inflammation which can have a few effects that share throat issues as a symptom: 

  • Flu: The flu is a viral respiratory infection that people get from either airborne droplets or touching surfaces that contain bacteria. While influenza, known as the flu, can be experienced any time throughout the year; flu viruses peak during winter months which is known as “flu season”. This is because cold air reduces the temperature in the nose which becomes dryer, killing the cells that help fight off bacteria. With less cells released to kill the bacteria we inhale, it becomes easier to catch the flu and become sick. 
  • Common cold:  several types of viruses can cause a cold, the most common being rhinoviruses. The common cold occurs as a result of inflammation of the membranes that line the nose and throat.  It is contagious and easy to spread, often spreading through airborne droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air by a person who is sick. 
  • Strep throat & tonsillitis: both of these conditions involve the bacterial infection of the tonsils and surrounding part of the throat. 

People  may be more prone to experiencing these conditions during winter months due to cold and drier air. These illnesses affect the throat, producing sore and scratchy throats. Throat issues can be exacerbated if you also experience allergies, ear infections, sinus infections etc. 

Additional Causes of Winter Throat Issues

In addition to being exposed to cold and dry air during winter months, there are a few factors that contribute to the pervasiveness of throat issues. This includes: 

  • Spending more time indoors with the heat on. This contributes to the circulation of dry air. 
  • Living in close proximity to others, sharing space, and also staying inside during the wintertime makes it easier to spread illnesses. 
  • The common cold and flu are especially common among school aged children. The classroom is an easy and common way bacteria spreads. 

These wintertime conditions make it easier to spread and catch a cold and the flu. Though we cannot avoid these conditions entirely, there are safety measures that can be practiced. 

Tips to Prevent Throat Issues

There are strategies you can practice to prevent experiencing throat issues. Being proactive can help you stay as healthy as possible. A few tips include: 

  • Stay warm: it is useful to stay warm and avoid staying outdoors for long periods of time which prevents you from breathing in excess dry air. 
  • Use a humidifier: use a humidifier to humidify your space which prevents dry air from circulating. Also, inhale steam via boiling water to moisturize your nasal passageways. 
  • Flu shot: get the seasonal flu shot and stay up to date with any boosters available. 
  • Sanitize often: use hand sanitizer, wash your hands often, and clean high touch surfaces regularly to reduce your exposure to bacteria. 
  • Wear a mask: wearing a mask reduces your risk of inhaling particles carrying viruses. Wearing a mask while navigating public spaces is an effective way to reduce your contact with bacteria. 
  • Remedies: drinking tea, broth, gargling with baking soda etc. can help alleviate throat issues and also help with warding off inflammation.  

These strategies can help you avoid experiencing throat issues during winter months. If you experience persistent throat issues, contact us to learn about the resources available to support your health.