The winter season often means snow, cold temperatures, the holidays, and sadly, the flu season, too. Most of us may have noticed that more flu cases occur during the winter, although we also know that the flu virus can also strike during the summer. So is there really a connection between the winter months and the influenza? Or should we be aware of the serious health risks that may be associated with getting the flu during winter?
The Immune System Research
According to a recent medical report published in the journal Environmental Health, the flu can occur all year round, but its health risks and damage may be more pronounced during the winter. The study involved reviewing the medical records from hospitals of 48 cities around the United States. These medical records provided information on the number of cases of cardiac deaths and influenza from 1999 to 2000. The researchers performed statistical analysis to determine whether there is indeed a connection between the health risks and damage due to influenza during the winter months.
The Health Risks of Winter
The results of the study showed that there are indeed a higher number of flu cases during the winter months, approximately 34% higher than the rest of the year. More importantly, this increase was also strongly associated with the higher number of cases of cardiac death. It may thus be possible that the immune system of the body may not fully capable of combating the effects of the influenza virus during the cold winter months. Although the study did not look into the actual capacity of the immune system of people afflicted with the flu during the winter, the researchers proposed that the damage caused by this infection might have been more severe compared to its effects during the summer, spring, or fall seasons. The researchers have also indicated in the report that the length of day, as well as the amount of sunshine received by most of us during the winter is significantly lower, and this may also have affected the capacity of the body’s immune system to combat infections during winter.
In addition, the human body is also working on maintaining its internal temperature during the winter and thus, its capacity to combat the presence of a flu virus is generally decreased, resulting in various health risks and damage to the body.
Despite the alarming association of the winter season with health damage involving the immune system, the researchers of the study also pointed out that there are still other factors that need to be considered for the increased incidence rates for flu. For example, it is also possible that pollution plays a role in the incidence of flu across the country. Certain cities may thus report a lower flu rate because the members of its community are getting fresher air than those living in crowded cities. The damage inflicted by air pollution may also affect the general health of an individual, possibly increasing the risk for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Lowering the Risk of Damage
The information provided by the recent medical report may be helpful to both physicians and the general public. The findings of the study showed strong evidence that the flu season may inflict damage to general health and thus, it is important for all of us to adapt healthy schemes to lower the risk of being infected. The fall in temperature during the winter months can sometimes be devastating, yet it is still possible to minimize the chances of getting the flu. For example, flu clinics are created during the winter months and these may be helpful in boosting the immune system to produce antibodies against the flu virus. Receiving the flu shot may thus decrease possible health damage related with having the flu.