Stay healthy: What to wear, eat, drink and do at 0°C

Changing a few small things about your behaviour can help you avoid getting ill when the temperature drops

Doctors have offered advice on how to stay warm and healthy during this week’s very cold weather, dismissing the common idea that a drop in temperatures automatically equals a rise in illness.

The advice comes as the “Moscow-Paris” phenomenon spreads across the country. Temperatures have been below 0°C in most regions, with some areas feeling as cold as -15°C due to wind chill.

It is often thought that the cold weather itself somehow spreads common winter illnesses, including flu, colds, bronchitis, or even gastroenteritis, and that getting ill is inevitable.

And yet, doctors have disputed this. Instead, they say that tweaking our everyday behaviour during a cold snap can help us avoid the worst of the infections in circulation.

More than just a coat

A warm coat is not enough, explains Dr Jean-Paul Hamon, doctor and president of medical group la Fédération des Médecins de France (FMF), speaking to news source 20 Minutes.

One must also add a hat, because 30% of our body heat is lost through our head, he says, as well as a scarf, ideally wrapped around your throat and mouth.

“We must warm up the air that is coming into our lungs,” Hamon explains. “At the very least, place your hand in front of your mouth. Air that is too cold makes our bronchial tubes fragile, and shrinks our immune system defences.”

Think like an onion

When dressing for the day, it is important to remember that you will need to adjust significantly between the outdoors and the warm office or home, even if you will be indoors most of the time.

The advice here is to build your outfit in thin layers, so that you can add or take away as needed.

It is better, doctors say, to wear two thin jumpers, rather than one thick one, as this will allow you to regulate your temperature better.

Bring the outdoors in

The wind may be freezing, but fresh air is still needed, and rooms should be ventilated regularly, explains Hamon.

A stuffy house filled with people can quickly promote the spread of illnesses, he explains. He advises that you open your windows to let fresh air in, even if only for a couple of minutes.

“If we stay at home in rooms that are not sufficiently ‘aired out’, especially in the company of other people who may be ill themselves; that is a surefire way to get ill yourself,” says Hamon.

He adds: “Indoor air is always dirtier and more polluted than outdoor air.”

Whether at home or at work, good hygiene is paramount too.

“You should wash your hands regularly and use disposable tissues throughout,” Hamon says.

Eat up

Good news: cold weather can cause our bodies to use more calories than usual, so we may be able to eat a little more fat than normal, says Hamon.

“You can eat raclette or pot-au-feu without feeling too guilty,” he says. “Consuming foods that are a little bit higher in calories can allow your body to fight against the cold.”

However, this does not preclude the need for fruit and vegetables. Eating “a rainbow” will give your body the extra vitamins and minerals it needs to stay healthy.

No more hot toddies

Bad news: the idea that “drinking alcohol will warm you up” is a mere myth.

“Consuming alcoholic drinks does not heat you up at all; it’s actually the opposite,” says Hamon.

In fact, alcoholic drinks could make you feel colder, because they dilute the exterior blood vessels.

This makes your body feel cold, forcing it to push heat away from your centre, and towards the outside of your limbs instead.

Coffee has the same effect, Hamon says, advising people to focus on drinking hot soup and broth instead.

The advice is also to drink copious amounts of room-temperature water, to stay hydrated.

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