CHARLESTON, W.Va. --Between the cold weather and viruses going around, keeping healthy in winter can be a challenge. There are a few things that people can do to improve their chances of avoiding sickness and staying healthy during the cold season. One of the biggest challenges during the winter can be protecting skin from cold temperatures, which can make it dry and itchy, Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said. To avoid dryness, people should use oil-based moisturizers, found mostly in creams, and take lukewarm baths and showers, Gupta said. Hot water dries out skin and removes a coat of natural oil on the skin, which leads to dryness.
"You want to moisturize but also to create a barrier on the skin so it doesn't lose its water," Gupta said. Gupta also advises wearing multiple layers and dry socks and gloves to keep skin healthy. Snowfall during the winter can often mean people are doing strenuous work shoveling driveways and sidewalks. If you plan do shovel snow, Gupta advises taking frequent breaks to warm up to avoid getting frostbite. A person also should bring lots of water instead of caffeinated drinks or alcohol, if they're going to be outside shoveling snow, Gupta said. It's also important to keep a cellphone with you and let another person know where you are in case of an emergency, Gupta said. Along with cold temperatures -- and the increased use of portable heaters and stoves -- comes the increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas produced when a fossil fuel is burned. People should install carbon monoxide detectors in their homes, avoid using an oven to heat a home and make sure gas-based ovens, which emit carbon monoxide, are used outside, Gupta said. Finally, avoiding viruses like influenza can be a challenge in the winter, when weather typically sends masses of people inside, where germs are spread from person to person.Getting vaccinated can prevent the flu, Gupta said. Other tips for avoiding the flu and other viruses are washing your hands frequently, avoid sharing food with people -- especially those who are sick -- and staying home from work when you're sick to avoid passing on the virus to someone else. Reach Lori Kersey at email@example.com or 304-348-1240.