The University Observer’s Guide to: Surviving Winter

As the temperature drops, so do our chances of surviving long enough to see Christmas. Alison Lee continues our series on mothering you so your mother doesn’t have to.Winter is well and truly upon us. It’s a season of many perils - what with global pandemics and extreme weather conditions, you’ll be lucky if you make it through to spring. If living past January is something that you intend to do however, read on; our guide might boost your chances of surviving long enough to break your new year’s resolutions.Seasonal influenza is one of the biggest winter threats. Thankfully there has been less talk of ‘swine flu pandemics’ this year, but even milder flu strains can be debilitating. Symptoms include a headache, fever and cough and the disease usually resolves itself within a week. That said, no one wants to be struck down with the flu when the dreaded E-word is lurking on the horizon. The best way to avoid the virus is to avoid being in confined spaces with other people (yes, a valid excuse to skip lectures!). Basic hygiene measures such as hand-washing also help. Individuals particularly at risk, such as asthmatics or diabetics, can get vaccinated.The above precautions apply to avoiding another of winter’s hazards: the common cold. Becoming run-down is difficult to avoid at this time of year, making it hard to avoid picking up whatever germs are flying about and leaving us vulnerable to ailments such as cold sores. Try keeping your health in shape by exercising (yes, even in bad weather you can go to the gym) and invest in multivitamin supplements. If you feel like doing it the natural way then try herbal remedies such as echinacea or elderflower. St. John’s Wort is another useful herb that attacks enveloped viruses, such as the influenza virus, however it is available only on prescription.In addition, the cold temperature itself can be dangerous. Hypothermia occurs if your body temperature drops below 37°C to 35°C. This is a scary condition; at first sufferers shiver and feel hungry but this then gives way to apathy, confusion and lethargy. Eventually the afflicted just sit down and freeze to death. Students be warned; alcohol intake increases your chances of suffering from hypothermia as it causes blood vessels near the skin surface to dilate and lose essential body heat. Luckily it is easily prevented by dressing appropriately for the weather - girls, that means bare legs and open-toed heels are off the agenda. What is on the agenda? Hats - the majority of body heat is lost through the head. Sadly the rule of thumb when choosing winter headgear is “the dumber it looks, the warmer it is”. So swap style for comfort and have a happy winter!