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The 4 ‘silent killers’ that can strike as temperatures plummet – the signs you need to know

SO it turns out you can’t actually pick up a cold from the cold.

But, the cold weather does increase your chances of developing a host of killer conditions as immunity plummets.

Sudden changes in temperature cause stress for the body

This is because the cold weather weakens your body making it harder for the immune system to fight diseases and regulate itself.

1. Blood clots

Sudden changes in temperature cause thermal stress for the body – which has to work harder to maintain its constant temperature.

In particular, research has shown this makes it more likely for people to suffer from dangerous blood clots during winter.

Study authors, from a hospital in Nice, France, suggested that respiratory tract infections more common in winter might make patients more vulnerable to blood clots.

They also suggested that chilly weather might make the blood vessels constrict, making it more likely that blood clots will form.

According to Stop The Clot, signs of a blood clot in the leg or arm include:

  • pain or tenderness
  • swelling
  • skin that is warm to the touch
  • redness or discoloration of the skin

Signs of a blood clot in the lung include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pain that worsens with a deep breath or lying down
  • coughing or coughing up blood
  • faster than normal or irregular heartbeat

2. The flu

Cases of the flu are expected to explode in the face of a ‘super cold snap’ of weather currently blanketing Britain, experts have warned.

Dr Conall Watson, consultant epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said while some have had their flu jab already, the UK needed to go ‘one step further this winter’.

He explained: “Temperatures are dropping, and winter is approaching. Flu typically increases at this time of the year, so if you are eligible for an NHS flu vaccine and haven’t had it yet, please book as soon as you can.

“We have now met the World Health Organisation target for flu vaccine uptake in those aged 65 and over, but we need to go further to make sure more people are protected this winter.”

Flu gets worse in winter months and the cold weather can exacerbate symptoms of the common illness.

The symptoms of flu are very similar to those of a very bad cold.

The NHS says this includes a suffer high temperature of 38C or more.

A high temperature had previously been a symptom of Covid, but the experts said that this is less likely with the Omicron strain.

You will also experience body aches and a dry cough.

You may also have difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite and feeling or being sick.

3. Asthma

Experts at Asthma UK say that winter can be ​a dangerous time for people with asthma as chilly weather, colds and flu, chest infections and mould are more common and can trigger life-threatening asthma attacks.

They explained that these attacks cause airways to become inflamed, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and struggling to breathe.

“Make sure you carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you at all times and keep taking their regular preventer inhaler (usually brown) as prescribed. ​

The simple scarf could also save your life.

“Do a ‘scarfie’ – wrapping a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth to help warm up the air before they breathe it in, ​as cold air is another asthma attack trigger.

“It could also be helpful to stick to indoor activities when the weather is particularly cold”, they advise.

According to the NHS, the main symptoms of asthma are:

  • Wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing)
  • Breathlessness
  • A tight chest
  • Coughing

4. Heart attacks

People exposed to cold weather are more likely to suffer a heart attack, a recent study revealed.

Researchers from Sweden from Lund University in Sweden found that the average number of heart attacks per day was significantly higher when the weather as cold compared to when the weather was warm.

On a day-to-day basis it translated to four more heart attacks per day when the average temperature was below zero.

It is thought the risk of heart attacks is higher in cold weather because the body responds to feeling chilly by restricting superficial blood vessels.

This decreases how warm the skin is and increases blood flow through the arteries.

The body also begins to shiver and your heart rate increases to keep you warm.

But these responses can add extra stress on your heart.

According to the NHS, symptoms of a heart attack can include: 

  • chest pain – a sensation of pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across the chest 
  • pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is spreading from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and tummy (abdomen) 
  • feeling lightheaded or dizzy 
  • sweating 
  • shortness of breath 
  • feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting) 
  • an overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack) 
  • coughing or wheezing 
  • Although the chest pain is often severe, some people may only experience minor pain, similar to indigestion. While the most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women is chest pain, women are more likely to experience other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

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