Dubai, UAE: While people in cold countries may be experiencing ‘winter blues,’ residents in Dubai are celebrating the light breeze, occasional rain and sunny weather during the winter months.
However, escaping the winter depression doesn’t exclude UAE residents from catching the sniffles during the flu season.
Dr Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist and director of Light House Arabia in Dubai, told Gulf News that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is often referred to as the ‘winter blues’ is a medical condition that affects people due to the lack of exposure to sunlight.
Common in extreme temperatures where the weather is very cold, rainy, and cloudy and the sunlight hours are reduced, SAD can cause individuals to experience a drop in serotonin levels, which are linked to depression, and melatonin levels, which regulate mood and sleep.
This can also cause a disruption in circadian rhythms which regulate your internal clock for sleep and your mood, said Dr Saliha.
However, in the UAE the condition happens in reverse.
“Here, SAD would be more likely to happen during the summer months, where individuals have to stay indoors, and don’t have the ability to go outdoors for fresh air or sunlight — resulting in changes in serotonin levels and melatonin levels,” said Dr Saliha.
With mood swings, low motivation levels and depression being common symptoms among many people at this time of year, residents in the UAE are able to enjoy exposure to the sun during the best time of the year for outdoor activities.
“Everyone is happier, more energetic, and more motivated when activities can be conducted outdoors in the fresh air instead of in AC environs,” she said.
However, with the colder weather comes the flu season.
“This is because during cold temperatures the viruses are more resilient and are more likely to pass on from person to person,” said Dr Saliha.
Catching a cold or suffering from a sore throat can all depend on a person’s immune system and the type of bacteria or virus they are exposed to.
When the weather changes, our bodies spend time readjusting to the changes, which may result in the weakening of the immune system, she said. This can result the person being more vulnerable to the illnesses around them.
Higher flu cases during winter
Dr Babu Shershad, from the First Medical Centre in Dubai, told Gulf News that every year there is an increase in the number of cold and flu cases at the centre during the colder months.
“Some of the common viruses are upper respiratory infections, influenza, common colds and sinusitis.”
Dr Shershad explained that the reasons behind the flu season are due to the body’s natural process during the winter months.
He pointed out that the upper airways, which are covered with cilia, protect the body by sweeping the bacteria, mucus, and dust particles away. “During lower temperatures, the cilia mortality is lower, too, and there is a natural tendency to clear fewer bacteria, therefore increasing the risk of infections.”
Vitamin D deficiency is also another common cause for catching the flu. Dr Shershad highlighted that there are a high number of people in the UAE suffering from vitamin D deficiency due to the lack of sunlight exposure for most of the year. “Many people spend a lot of their time indoors at work or at the malls, away from sunlight, which can eventually impact their immunity as their bodies are in need of vitamin D.”
So, along with the lovely weather, doctors advise people to maintain a healthy diet and not underestimate the winter winds.
© Gulf NewsDec 2014