No matter how you’re celebrating this year, nobody has time to be sick. Fortunately, you can take steps to help keep common cold weather illnesses away.
First, let’s take a look at what makes colds and the flu more common during the winter than at other times of the year. You might think it’s the cold weather — and, in a way, you’re right. Because of the cold weather, we’re forced to spend more time indoors, which brings us into close quarters with other people, making it easier to spread respiratory illnesses from person to person.
With that fact in mind, is illness just a given? It doesn’t have to be! Read on for some steps you can take to keep illness at bay as we head into winter.
- Get your flu shot. We know — you’ve already heard this one. But here’s your reminder that thousands of Americans end up hospitalized each year because of the flu. If you haven’t already been vaccinated this fall, it isn’t too late. Make sure that everyone age 6 months and older gets their annual flu shot ASAP to help prevent the flu. Because, even if your health can handle the illness, keeping yourself well means keeping others well.
- Avoid shaking hands. Respiratory illnesses pass easily from person to person. Who knows whether the person you’re greeting has an illness, or has come in contact with germs? It has become accepted practice to greet others with a wave or an elbow bump. Even if you aren’t shaking hands, wash your hands and teach your little ones to wash their hands routinely throughout the day!
- Get plenty of sleep. You may think sleep is expendable during the holiday season, but it’s actually even more important than usual. When your body is tasked with fending off illness every day, it needs all the sleep it can get. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night and kids need even more. Try to make sure everyone sticks as close to their usual bedtime routine as possible even during the holidays.
- Get your workout on. Regular physical activity benefits the body in a variety of ways — protecting both physical and mental health at all ages. It’ll help lower your blood pressure, manage your weight and reduce your stress levels. But it also has specific benefits when it comes to fending off illness! Regardless of age, exercise helps improve circulation and strengthens the immune system: key parts of staying virus-free!
- Eat up. Everyone should aim to eat a diet filled with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. But if you want to give your immune system an extra shot of goodness, add foods containing vitamin C (citrus fruits, spinach, bell peppers), vitamin E (broccoli, spinach, almonds, peanuts), vitamin B6 (bananas, chicken, tuna, potatoes), vitamin A (carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, pumpkin), vitamin D (fatty fish, fortified foods), and zinc (yogurt, oysters, chickpeas).
- Don’t touch your face. When you touch something and pick up germs, touching your eyes, mouth or nose with your hands can spread the germs and cause illness. In fact, that’s one of the most common ways for germs to enter the body.
- Try to stay away from sick people. We know: This isn’t always possible. But, if you can, steer clear of people who are sick. If you can’t, use sanitizing wipes on commonly touched areas (like doorknobs, phones and light switches) and wash your hands often. If you’re the one who’s sick, stay home.
- Stay home. On the topic of staying away from sick people, continue to stay home as much as possible. Gather with only those who live in your household and, if you must gather with others, keep to small groups, wear masks, and gather outdoors or only in well-ventilated areas.
Already under the weather? Find a doctor here.