Wintertime with CF

Blog -

Shorter days? Colder nights? That's right, it's well and truly winter. Poppy Penhaul Smith, who has cystic fibrosis (CF) and is moving to Austria, has given us 10 of her top tips for a healthy and happy winter, from staying active to banishing sickly partners to the spare room!

Poppy skiing

As I’m about to move to Austria for five months, I’ve started thinking about how to keep my health as good as possible during the cold weather. Colds are always a struggle during winter weather and lots of colds lead to IVs, which I am doing my best to avoid! So here are my top 10 tips for staying as healthy as possible through the winter months:

1.Vitamin C

I have found that vitamin C is an absolute cold saver! It helps to get rid of my sore throat, which reduces the amount I cough. It also seems to help fight my cold and get rid of it quicker. Vitamin C supplements are super easy to get hold of - I take the tablets that dissolve in water and unlike a lot of medication they don’t actually taste disgusting!

2. Take a day off

By this, I don’t necessarily mean take a day of because you are ill. Take a day off because everyone else at work is ill! If you can speak to your boss and negotiate working from home, when everyone in the office has colds you can avoid catching them by avoiding the ill people. I know this may not be possible for everyone and certainly wasn’t when I was at school, but it is something worth considering and talking through with your employers.

3. Keep exercising

Although the cold weather puts most people off exercising because it feels like even more effort and not as appealing in the winter, I would definitely recommend still trying to do some. Exercise helps improve your lungs no matter the time of year and with all the illness going around in the winter, it’s arguably never been more important. If you don’t want to go to the gym or exercise outside, find something you can do at home. YouTube is great for this with exercise gurus such as Joe Wicks or a personal favourite, the Nike Training Club app. Plus, a bonus of exercising is it helps you to warm up on those chilly days!

4. Rescue medication

Nothing really shifts a cold, but discuss with your medical team if a supply of rescue medication that you can take when you get one would be appropriate for you. Personally, I have a specific two-week course of tablets that I take when I get a cold, which can help stop it getting worse. The type of medication varies from one person to another and if you don’t know what yours is speak to your CF team.

5. Go to the mountains!

Use your CF as an excuse to take a holiday to the mountains! The air is cleaner and fresher in the mountains and helps to keep your lungs clear. This also doesn’t mean venturing to Austria like me! There are hundreds of mountains all across the UK. Failing this, try to get some fresh air every day. Staying inside, cooped up like a couch potato the whole day, whilst being extremely appealing and cosy and comfortable, also causes the mucus and bacteria in your lungs to just sit and get stickier. Try to go outside and get some fresh air. Or at least do some extra physio to shift some of that mucus.

6. Eat all the food!

Winter is a great excuse to cook the heaviest, tastiest meals. We are currently working our way through Jamie’s comfort food book. In the winter you can often lose your appetite because it’s so cold and horrible, however in order to stay as healthy as possible and to keep those IVs away, it is important to stay at a good weight. Therefore, use winter as an excuse to eat all your favourite meals. Plus, Christmas is a great excuse to eat continuously for three days!

7. Flu jab

Get your flu jab. You should get a notice from your GP about having your flu jab or, if you’re away, you can try to get one at a local pharmacy. This year I wasn’t at home so got mine done in a Boots and then just notified my GP afterwards. Flu can be detrimental to someone with CF’s health, so don’t risk it!

8. Banish your partner to the sofa (or spare room)

If your partner is ill and you don’t want to catch their cold or flu then I would recommend sleeping separately so you don’t catch their illness. Although this may seem slightly harsh, you are only protecting your health. Buy them a box of chocolates or some flowers so they don’t take it too badly!

9. Arthropathy

Some of you may not know what this is. It is described as episodic arthritis characterised by repeated short attacks of severe, incapacitating polyarthritis. In short, when you have a cold or infection, sometimes your joints become inflamed (not because they are infected) and can be hard to move. This often happens when I have a cold and for me it mainly affects my ankles. This means that often it is too painful for me to walk. In these situations, the hospital has prescribed me strong ibuprofen which helps relieve the pain. Unfortunately, there is little you can do except take ibuprofen and wait for it to get better as your cold gets better. Don’t panic and speak to your doctors if you do get it and they will be able to help. However, this doesn’t affect everyone - some studies say only about 5% of people with CF get it.

10. Don’t be a grinch

If you do end up in hospital over Christmas or New Year, then remember you’re not the only one having to spend your holiday there. All the nurses and doctors are also missing Christmas to work. Therefore, however hard it may be, try to be nice to the people taking care of you!

Finally, just enjoy your Christmas and New Year! Make some resolution’s that will help your health and help keep you out of hospital. Winter, although one of the toughest seasons to keep in top health, is also one of my favourites.

You can follow Poppy’s travels on her blog

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