The Real Fear Factor

17 th November, 2015

Top 5 Health Risks that Refugees Face this Winter

The commonly dreaded cold snap is fast creeping upon us as the nights begin early and the air fills with fog. Some people may enjoy the winter season while a lot may dread it.

Our concerns are based around staying fit and healthy, hygienic, keeping warm, well-nourished and suitably hydrated. Medical supplies are kept to hand or are readily available and preventative methods are constantly advised. Health services are at the ready should there be an emergency, so the chances of treatment and surviving something altogether severe is often quite high.

Not everyone has the same advantages that we do, though.

Winter and viruses seemingly go hand in hand and while a lot of us may have already had a common cold or flu, along with the winter bugs that spread easily such as norovirus, they are generally treatable for the majority.  

Employers nationwide tend to glance at their phones every morning, anxious as to how many people will fall ill this time, call in sick and whether it is contagious or not.

But putting our own annual seasonal issues aside for a moment, let’s think about the much bigger picture; of the thousands of refugees worldwide this year and what they could be facing this winter. Click here to start making a difference to those lives less fortunate!

Cold / Flu
When we develop a cold, we experience coughing, blocked airways, headaches, a runny nose, a sore throat and perhaps even a high temperature. Our bodies tend to weaken and fall lethargic and our joints ache. When we fall victim to the common cold, we tend to take painkillers, plenty of fluids and appropriate food, alongside plenty of rest. Colds are also easily spread, so we also see the importance of hygiene and try to reduce the chances of spreading the virus.  Washing hands regularly, using tissues and so forth.

Pneumonia is an inflammation of tissue in the lungs, which is caused by infections – commonly winter-based infections. The inflammation of the lungs leads to a difficulty in breathing, discoloured phlegm and a high fever. Other possible symptoms can consist of chest pain and confusion, amongst many more. If left untreated, pneumonia can lead to further serious complications such as septicaemia (blood poisoning), respiratory failure and even death. It can also have an impact on other organs in the body, including the heart. Hospital treatment may be required for moderate to severe pneumonia.

Frostbite / Hypothermia
Frostbite is usually caused by exposure to extremely cold temperatures and can affect any part of the body. It is often extremely painful and happens when a particular part of the body goes tingly in the cold, followed by a numbness – which is when the tissues within the area have frozen. Symptoms can then lead to hypothermia, which can consist of shivering, a state of confusion, pale skin, lethargy, drowsiness, hyperventilation, poor judgement and tachycardia. People with serious signs of severe hypothermia can experience shallow breathing, dilated pupils, slow pulse and even unconsciousness. This is an incredibly fatal state of hypothermia. Frostbite is typically treated with warmth before the tissue completely dies, in which case surgery is usually required. If this is left too long and becomes very severe, it could result in necessitating amputation of the infected area. Homeless people are one of the common categories of people affected by frostbite.  Obviously, the chances of frostbite are caused by cold temperatures and are reduced by wearing warm clothing, shoes, gloves, scarves, coats, hats and so forth.  

Malnutrition is when an individual doesn’t obtain sufficient nutrients from food consumption. The human body needs a certain amount of nutrients to function properly; when this is compromised, so is the body. Malnutrition can lead to weakened muscles, anxiety, lethargy, low immune system and a drop in mood. Malnutrition can also affect the human body, particularly children, from physically developing properly. There are various causes for malnutrition; those with an illness or condition who find it difficult to eat, those who choose not to eat and those who have no choice but to starve.
The latter, commonly known as poverty, is a huge factor of malnutrition worldwide and those who are severely malnourished face an increased risk of death. Thousands of people in need, including children, die worldwide on a daily basis due to the effects of malnutrition.

Heart Attack
A heart attack is caused by a lack of blood supply to the heart, which could be caused by blood clotting resulting in brain/organ failure. Some of the health conditions listed above left untreated can often lead to a heart attack in severe cases, such as a loss of regular lung function. Symptoms can include a shortness of breath, dizziness, feeling anxious, nausea, coughing, weakness and chest pain. Due to the fatal effects of a heart attack and the chances of cardiac arrest (heart stops beating), urgent medical attention is usually required.

There are so many other health risks beyond the above five that can affect those who are victims of famine and poverty. The majority of us have access to the health service, medication and preventative methods, whereas those in need do not; therefore, they are left with no choice but to suffer.

These people could have been facing poverty for a long time or have been driven out of the comfort of their own homes and countries due to war. They face a completely different world today and haven’t much left from their previous lives. Every day is a challenge as they largely rely on relief aid, help and support from people like us.

But together, we can turn that around. Thousands of individuals worldwide have resorted to helping today’s refugees, in a bid to welcome them and help to restore at least some normality back into their lives.  You can help, too, by donating to Islamic Help’s emergency appeals,  which will ensure your donation goes to those who are currently in the greatest need of your help.



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