The cold of winter can negatively affect wound healing.
Autumn is upon us and the bitter cold of winter is getting ready to set in, so it’s time to become informed about how the chilly season can affect the wound healing process. When the body is in recovery mode, a lot of factors come into play, from the dressings you choose to use to any health conditions that can interfere with the body’s ability to fight off harmful bacteria or regenerate tissue. But few people realize that the weather can also affect the outcome, including these facets of wound healing:
It’s common knowledge that the winter can be tough on the skin. Biting winds and chilly conditions can cause the dermis to dry out, which is unfortunate since wounds heal best under moist conditions. For this reason, it’s important to keep the affected area covered with wound dressings and properly clothed for the conditions. In general, warm, damp conditions are best. You may want to ask your clinician about moisturizing products if the skin around the wound is particularly dry.
Winter is cold and flu season, which can be detrimental to wound healing. As viruses and bacteria enter the body and you become ill, the immune system focuses its attention on fighting those harmful elements. In effect, the immune function aimed at the affected area becomes neglected, opening up the doors for wound infection. Taking precautions during this time of year not to get sick is very important to proper recovery from a wound.
In addition to the risk of illness, there’s also an inherent risk of infection that comes with winter, according to Harvard Health.
“Research has shown that cold spells are reliably followed by upticks in the number of deaths from respiratory disease,” the source stated. “Some of this may have to do with a few infectious organisms, like flu viruses, thriving in colder temperatures, but there’s also evidence that exposure to cold temperatures suppresses the immune system, so the opportunities for infection increase.”
Poor circulation has the capacity to hinder wound healing. Oxygenation of the site is essential to its ability to fend off harmful bacteria and regenerate tissue, and the body sends oxygen (as well as important nutrients) to the wound through the blood. During winter, people tend to become more dormant, opting to stay inside where it’s warm rather than face the cold, but inactivity can hamper circulation. This is exacerbated by the fact that exposure to cold temperatures can negatively affect blood flow, particularly to the extremities. As such, staying warm when going outdoors is important to circulation, and ensuring wound dressings are not too tight is also important.
Staying active during winter is another key way to enhance healthy circulation during winter. Indoor exercise may be best during this time of year – swimming, yoga and tai chi are known to enhance blood flow, or you could join a gym.