10 Tips to Keep You and Your Family Healthy This Winter
The medical field has long known people are more prone to catching colds and the flu during the cold winter months. Previously, scientists have primarily attributed to people living and breathing together in enclosed environments. But now, according to a 2015 PBS report, “Scientists Finally Prove Why Cold Weather Makes You Sick,” Yale scientists have the evidence that cold temperatures do indeed make our immune system sluggish and prevent our bodies from fighting off infection.
So while we know germs are the actual cause of colds and the flu, we now know cold temperatures prevent our bodies from being able to stave off infection. With these two factors in mind, follow these tips to stay healthy this winter.
KEEP YOUR HOME WARM
Maintaining warmth is essential to ward off winter-related illnesses. So, keep your home temperature comfortably warm by setting your thermostat somewhere between 68 and 75 degrees F. Optimum temperatures are 70 to 72 degrees for daytime in your living areas, and then turn the thermostat down just a couple degrees cooler at night in your bedrooms. What’s comfortable can vary from person-to-person. So if you feel cold at 72 degrees, turn it up a notch or two. The idea is that you remain comfortable.
DRESS IN LAYERS
Whether you’re hanging around at home or heading out, and about, layer your clothing. Wear a T-shirt or cami, a long-sleeve shirt or blouse, and a sweater over the top. This way you can keep your thermostat set at a moderate temperature and peel off layers to maintain the perfect comfort level. Layers will also ensure you maintain your comfort if you go somewhere.
Also, when you do leave the house, wear warm boots, gloves, and a hat even if you’ll be outside only briefly.
Maintaining a healthy diet is important year round. But during the cool winter months, certain foods are particularly beneficial to our immune systems.
Surprisingly, the much-criticized starchy potato is an excellent source of nutrition. It’s high in vitamins B6 and C, both of which boost our immunity. Collards, kale, and chard among other dark leafy greens are high in vitamins A, C, and K. Winter squash, from pumpkin to butternut, spaghetti, and acorn, is high in beta-carotene.
There are also several fruits that protect us from winter-related ailments. Citrus fruits are a rich source of vitamin C. But kiwi packs even more of a C “punch” than an orange. Other fruits that’ll help keep your immune system strong include pomegranates, blueberries, cherries, and even bananas.
WASH YOUR HANDS
We all know washing our hands is crucial to prevent the spread of germs to others. But regular hand washing also reduces the risk of transferring bacteria to yourself.
How is that? When someone with a cold or flu touches a doorknob, handrail, or any other object, they transfer their germs to those objects where the bacteria survive for several hours. Now let’s say you come along and touch the germ-ridden object. The bacteria has now transferred to your hands. Next thing you know, you scratch your nose or grab a cookie to eat, and voilà, you’ve just been infected.
So during the winter months make a special effort to wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water. Be sure to rub between your fingers and underneath your fingernails, then rinse your hands well and dry them thoroughly.
Maintaining an active lifestyle is crucial to a healthy heart, lungs, and bones. But exercise does even more than that for our health. In 2010, a study was cited in “Exercise and Respiratory Tract Viral Infections.” It found a moderately active lifestyle may improve our immune systems as well.
So the key to improved health is to exercise regularly but in moderation. Unless you’re trying out for the Olympics, a 20-mile run isn’t likely to serve you well. Instead, opt for a brisk walk for 30 – 60 minutes each day.
AVOID PUBLIC PLACES DURING OUTBREAKS
When you hear of an outbreak of the flu or a virus in your area, it’s a good time to stay home. Avoid public places as much as possible.
TAKE AN ANTIVIRAL MEDICATION
If you’re exposed to the flu, be proactive and nip it in the bud with a prescription for Relenza or Tamiflu. The only catch: There’s a short window of opportunity for these medications to be effective. Treatment medications must begin within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms for the treatments to be effective. So as soon as you feel signs of the flu coming on, call your doctor. If your doctor can’t get you in right away, opt for an urgent care so you can begin the treatment immediately.
GET A MASSAGE
According to a 2010 study for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Swedish massage increases lymphocytes, which improve the effectiveness of our immune systems. This means you now have a better excuse to treat yourself to that massage you’ve been reluctant to splurge on. If getting regular massages isn’t in your budget, opt for trading massages with your partner to help fight off illness.
GET YOUR Z’S
Studies have found that when we sleep our bodies release cytokines, which help to promote sleep. But certain cytokines also ward off infection.
Sleep requirements vary from person to person, but children should get at least 10 hours of sleep each night. Teenagers require nine to ten hours and adults seven to eight hours per night.